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UPDATED: Warrior defense struggles in 88-80 loss at Cal Poly

All of a sudden, the University of Hawai’i basketball team has some major issues to address.

An unexpected 88-80 loss at last-place Cal Poly and an unexpected injury to point guard Drew Buggs on Saturday raised concern for the Rainbow Warriors with only two weeks remaining in the regular season.

A crowd of 2,310 at the Mott Athletics Center in San Luis Obispo, Calif., watched the Mustangs have their best shooting night of the season to win just their second conference game.

The Rainbow Warriors dropped to 16-11 overall and is now in fourth place in the Big West Conference at 7-6. The Mustangs improved to 6-19 overall and remained in ninth place at 2-10.

Just nine days earlier, Hawai’i routed Cal Poly, 75-54, in Honolulu.

“Today we were out-classed in the toughness area and that’s disappointing,” UH head coach Eran Ganot said in a post-game radio interview on ESPN 1420 AM. “We’ll go back to work and that’s what you can do. It hurts, it’s painful. We’re as bad defensively as I’ve ever seen our program …. if we can’t fix that, we’re cooked.”

Hawai’i played the entire second half without starting point guard Buggs, who suffered an ankle injury late in the first half. Coincidence or not, the Mustangs broke away from the Warriors early in the second half.

“We’re just going to wait and see,” Ganot said in regards to Buggs’ injury. “I think we had enough to get it done without him and we didn’t get it done. Obviously, we miss his voice, his defense, but we didn’t have enough. It’s no excuse. We’re a joke defensively and on the boards.”

Cal Poly reached its season high for points (88), field goal percentage (.533), 3-pointers made (14), and 3-point percentage (.583). The Mustangs also out-rebounded the Warriors, 35-34.

Hawai’i held its own offensively, shooting 43.5 percent from the field, including 8 for 22 (36.4 percent) from 3-point range. The Warriors also committed a season-low four turnovers while passing for 18 assists. However, the 88 points allowed was the most by a UH opponent this season, as was the 14 3-pointers.

“We’re just not a very good defensive team.,” Ganot said. “We don’t have defensive pride. We got out-rebounded. We didn’t deserve that game. I appreciate our (lack of) turnovers and all that, but this is a recurring theme and we have big problems there.”

Zigmars Raimo led the Hawai’i offense with a career-high 21 points. He shot 8 for 11 from the field, 5 for 6 on free throws, and also grabbed seven rebounds.

Brocke Stepteau, pressed into full-time point guard duties after Buggs went down, added 11 points and a career-high 11 assists with zero turnovers.

Sheriff Drammeh added 13 points, Eddie Stansberry scored 12, and Dawson Carper contributed seven points and nine rebounds for the Warriors.

The first half went back and forth, with the teams exchanging the lead 12 times. The Warriors took a 40-38 lead at halftime after Stepteau scored on a driving layup with 30 seconds

Buggs limped off the court with 4:49 remaining in the first half and sat out the entire second half.

The Mustangs opened the second half with an 11-2 surge to take a 49-42 lead. The Warriors cut it to 50-49 on a 3-pointer by Stepteau, but the Mustangs then went on a 14-5 run to increase their lead to 66-56 with 9:59 remaining.

A 12-3 run by the Warriors got them as close as 69-68, but the Mustangs managed to stay in front the rest of the way.

Donovan Fields scored a game-high 28 points, including 4-for-7 shooting from 3-point range, for Cal Poly.

“We let him get comfortable,” Ganot said. “I think we were so soft entirely in this game – on the boards, pressuring their guys … We’re in a bad place right now in two key areas – defending and rebounding.”

The Warriors are scheduled to return to Honolulu on Sunday. Their next game is set for March 2 against CSUN. That will be the final home game of the season, and Drammeh, Stepteau and Jack Purchase will be honored as part of “Senior Night.”

CLICK HERE to view boxscore

Big West Conference
Saturday’s Results
Long Beach State 71, at UC Riverside 67 (OT)
at CSUN 81, UC Davis 76 (OT)
at UC Santa Barbara 82, Cal State Fullerton 67
at Cal Poly 88, Hawai’i 80

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