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UPDATED: Warrior defense falters in loss at UC Riverside, 75-71

Somewhere on the way from Northridge to Riverside, the University of Hawai’i lost something it couldn’t afford to lose on the road. Defense.

In a performance head coach Eran Ganot described as “atrocious,” the Rainbow Warriors had its worst defensive showing of the season in a 75-71 loss to UC Riverside on Saturday at the SRC Arena in Riverside, Calif.

UCR shot 53.7 percent from the field and made 13 3-pointers – both statistics are season-highs for a UH opponent – in ending the Warriors’ five-game winning streak.

Hawai’i, which could have moved into first place with a win, dropped to 11-6 overall and 2-1 in the Big West Conference. The Highlanders improved to 7-13 and 1-3.

In contrast to its defense, Hawai’i’s offense was efficient. The Warriors shot 55.8 percent from the field (29 for 52), 37.5 percent from 3-point range (9 for 24), passed for a season-high 25 assists, committed just nine turnovers, and out-rebounded UCR 28-26.

“The offense wasn’t the problem,” Ganot said in a post-game radio interview on ESPN 1420 AM. “When you go 56 percent, 25 assists, nin turnovers, on the road, you should win that game. We weren’t bad defensively. We were disgusting defensively. We were atrocious. It was a joke.”

The Highlanders went 29 for 54 from the field overall, and 13 for 25 (52 percent) from 3-point range.

“If our defense was average, we win that game,” Ganot said. “If our defense was bad, we may win that game with the way we scored.”

Jack Purchase led the Warriors with 24 points. He shot 10 for 15 from the field, including 4 of 9 from 3-point range. He now has 163 3-pointers in his UH career, and trails only Zane Johnson (180) and Predrag Savovic (178) in the school’s record book for 3-pointers made.

Sheriff Drammeh added 17 points and eight rebounds, Drew Buggs contributed nine points, nine assists and six rebounds, and Zigmars Raimo scored nine on 4-for-4 shooting for Hawai’i.

Eddie Stansberry, UH’s leading scorer entering the game, finished with two points and shot 0 for 5 from 3-point range. He had hit at least one 3-pointer in every previous game this season.

“To his credit, he’s been pretty consistent and I think he’ll respond,” Ganot said of Stansberry. “I think defensively it was a struggle and it creeped into the offense. Unfortunately, there were some bad shots taken in there and that’s not what we do. He’ll be better for it. He’s such a great kid … I think he’ll respond.”

It started out well for the Warriors, who led by as many as 11 points in the first half.  Hawai’i hit nine of their first 11 shots from the field to open the game, and held a 21-13 lead at that stage of the game. Hawai’i had a 26-15 advantage midway through the first half.

The Highlanders used an 11-0 run late in the half to take a 35-32 lead with 1:27 remaining in the first half. They eventually took a 36-34 lead at intermission.

UCR maintained the lead for the entire second half. The Highlanders led by as many as eight late in the game, but the Warriors rallied to make it close.

The Warriors trailed 64-61 with less than four minutes remaining, but UCR’s Dragan Elkaz completed a four-point play – he drained a 3-pointer, got fouled, and made the ensuing free throw – to give the Highlanders a 68-61 advantage with 3:44 remaining.

Still, the Warriors got within two, 70-68, on a junper by Purchase with 2:05 remaining, but Dikymbe Martin scored on consecutive UCR possessions to seal the win for the Highlanders.

“I was disappointed with the way we finished that game ,too,” Ganot said. “We had a lot of time and a lot of things that can happen, but we took bad shots. … we could have given ourselves a chance.”

Elkaz, a UCR freshman from Australia, scored a game-high 25 points, including 7 of 10 shooting from 3-point range. Martin added 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting, and five assists.

The Warriors are scheduled to return to Honolulu on Sunday, and will play their next four games at home. The next game is on Wednesday, January 23, against UC Irvine.

CLICK HERE to view boxscore

(Game photos courtesy Julie Kim)

CLICK HERE to view photo gallery

Big West Conference
Saturday’s Results
at UC Riverside 75, Hawai’i 71
UC Irvine 74, at CSUN 68
at UC Davis 75, Cal Poly 63
Cal State Fullerton 92, at Long Beach State 90 (OT)

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