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Warriors struggle in first half of 67-56 loss at UC Irvine

Unfortunately for the University of Hawai’i basketball team, a game still requires two halves. The Rainbow Warriors’ struggles in the first half were too much to overcome in a 67-56 road loss at UC Irvine on Saturday.

The Warriors shot 25 percent from the field and fell behind by 15 in the first half of the Big West Conference loss at the Bren Events Center in Irvine, Calif. Hawai’i adjusted in the second half, but could never catch the Anteaters.

“The first half, we didn’t do anything,” Hawai’i head coach Eran Ganot said. “We missed every screen, we didn’t set up a cut, and that plays right into their hands. We didn’t have transition and we didn’t’ get offensive rebounds. The combination of those things … we got what we deserved. I appreciate the response in the second half, but you can’t do that against good teams … we gave up 20 minutes.”

Hawai’i dropped to 14-9 overall and is now in fourth place in the Big West at 5-4. UCI improved to 21-5 overall and remains in first place at 9-1. The Anteaters swept the season series with Hawai’i, including a one-point win in Honolulu last month.

Jack Purchase and Sheriff Drammeh led the Warriors with 11 points each. They each made three 3-pointers. Purchase now has 179 3-pointers in his UH career, one away from tying Zane Johnson’s school record of 180 set from 2010-12.

The Anteaters used an 11-1 surge late in the first half to take control with a 24-12 lead with 4:36 remaining. UCI’s Evan Leonard hit a running 3-pointer as the halftime horn sounded to give the Anteaters a 33-18 lead at intermission.

The Warriors shot just 6 for 24 (.250) from the field in the first half, including 3 for 10 from 3-point range. They also went just 3 for 6 on free throws, and got out-rebounded, 22-13, in the first 20 minutes.

Hawai’i ended up shooting 35.3 percent (18 for 51) from the field, including 9 for 20 (45 percent) from 3-point range. UCI shot 46.7 percent (28 for 60) from the field and won the rebounding battle, 40-28

“I thought we came out ready the first five minutes, and then … offensively we were a mess,” Ganot said. “No purpose, no screening, no execution and playing late clock again. Obviously, that was a total different story in the second half. The difference in the second half that we couldn’t quite get over the hump was our inability to finish around the rim and rebounding.”

Hawai’i opened the second half with a 10-2 run to cut the UCI lead to 35-28. The Warriors got as close as six, 52-46, on a 3-pointer by Drammeh with 7:19 remaining. But the Anteaters responded by scoring the next six points to regain control of the lead at 58-46.

Point guard Drew Buggs finished with eight points and nine assists for the Warriors. Senior guard Brocke Stepteau added nine points, although he shot 2 for 8 from the field.

“I thought Brocke and Drew were terrific,” Ganot said. “They missed some bunnies around the rim, but they could have easily had a lot more assists than that if we could catch the ball and finish around the rim. They were making the right plays.”

The Anteaters entered the game limiting opponents to a .384 field goal percentage for the season, and UCI head coach Russell Turner credited his team’s defense for the Warriors’ first-half struggles.

“Our defense was really difficult for them to score on,” he said. “It makes us hard to beat when we are locked in. I am pleased we were able to rise to the occasion tonight in front of a big crowd.”

Max Hazzard led the Anteaters with 13 points, but the play of UCI big men Jonathan Galloway and Elston Jones was significant. Galloway, a 6-10 senior, had eight points on 4-of-5 shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds; Jones, a 6-9 senior, had 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds.

The Warriors are scheduled to return to Honolulu on Sunday. Their next two games will be home conference contests against the two bottom teams of the Big West. Hawai’i will host last-place Cal Poly on Thursday, then eighth-place UC Riverside on Saturday.

Big West Conference
Saturday’s Results

Cal State Fullerton 77, UC Riverside 54
Long Beach State 76, at Cal Poly 68 (OT)
at UC Irvine 67, Hawai’i 56
UC Davis 61, at UC Santa Barbara 57

2 Comments

  1. In the first half, “we didn’t do anything” because the Anteaters played pretty tough defense. The second half doesn’t count because they layed off the tough defense they were playing. They didn’t want to run the score up.

  2. In past years there was talk of “starting fast”. I would like to see that brought back again. The talk of it at least. If we can’t start fast then we can’t start fast. But the talk should be, “we couldn’t start fast”, and not first go to ‘offensively a mess, no purpose, no screening, no execution, and playing late clock again’.

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