Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

UPDATED: Warriors finish strong with 71-59 win at Cal State Fullerton

Consider the momentum seized. Now, the University of Hawai’i basketball team can take it to the Big West Conference Tournament at Anaheim, Calif., next week.

Led by senior guard Brocke Stepteau, the Rainbow Warriors closed the regular season with an impressive 71-59 win at Cal State Fullerton on Saturday at Titan Gym in Fullerton, Calif.

Hawai’i finished the regular season with back-to-back road wins to improve to 18-12 overall. They also finished in fourth place in the Big West at 9-7.

The Warriors will be the No. 4 seed for the eight-team Big West tournament, and will face No. 5 Long Beach State in a quarterfinal game on March 14.

The Titans dropped to 14-16 with their second loss to Hawai’i this season. They are 10-6 in the Big West, and will be the No. 3 seed for the tournament.

Stepteau scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds and set a new school record for consecutive free throws to lead the Warriors.

“The thing we wanted to work on this road trip was being tough and fighting through adversity,” Stepteau said in a post-game interview on the ESPN3 live stream broadcast. “We’ve been on a losing streak before we came out here (to California) and we just said on the road we have to be tough and fight together. If we hit a little adversity, we have to stick together and we’ll be fine. We got hit in the mouth early and we wanted to respond to that and come together and I think we did a good job of that tonight.”

Stepteau shot 3 for 4 from 3-point range, and also went 8 for 8 on free throws. His streak of consecutive made free throws is now ongoing at 34, which is five more than the previous record of 29 set by Zane Johnson in the 2011-12 season. Stepteau’s current free throw percentage of .889 is also on pace to set a new UH season record.

“I had the same routine since I was like  5,” Stepteau said.  “I just take two dribbles, spin the ball, and take a deep breath and picture it going in before I shoot it. Just take my time out there and try to knock it down. That’s what I try to do every time.”

He wasn’t the only one on Saturday. The Warriors shot 18 for 19 (.947) as a team on free throws, while Fullerton was 7 for 11 (.636).

Zigmars Raimo added 12 points and six rebounds, Drew Buggs had nine points and seven rebounds, and Jack Purchase contributed nine points and six rebounds for the Warriors.

The Warriors fell behind 7-0 to open the game, and trailed by as many as nine points in the first half. Hawai’i shot just 36.4 percent from the field (12 for 33) in the first half, but managed to cut the Fullerton lead to 34-33 by intermission.

A running 3-pointer by Buggs as the halftime horn sounded gave the Warriors the boost they needed for the second half.

Stepteau scored 15 in the second half, and the Warriors shot 52.4 percent (11 for 21) from the field in the second half.

“My coaches told me to get downhill and get in the paint,” Stepteau said. “Attack their big men and if I was open, shoot. If not, kick out to one of our shooters and get to the line when I could. They told me at halftime to come out and be aggressive and I wanted to do that and give a little spark to our team in the second half.”

Hawai’i took the lead early in the second half and stayed in control the rest of the way. The Warriors led by as many as 10 midway through the second half and then held off the Titans in the closing minutes.

The Warriors sealed the victory by going 8 for 8 from the free throw line in the final two minutes.

Hawai’i played without starting guard Eddie Stansberry and reserve center Dawson Carper, who both sat out with undisclosed injuries.

The Warriors will remain in their same hotel in Fullerton through next week’s Big West tournament. Hawai’i went 2-0 against Long Beach State during the regular season.

“Defense and toughness,” Stepteau said as a key to their recent road success. “That’s what we were lacking when we were on a three-game losing streak. We just weren’t being tough and we weren’t playing defense. We fixed that this trip so far and we got some good momentum coming into the tournament. If we do that, we like our chances we can compete with anybody.”

CLICK HERE to view boxscore

(Game photos courtesy Shane Rodrigues)

CLICK HERE to view photo gallery

Saturday’s Results
UC Riverside 71, at UC Davis 70
UC Santa Barbara 92, at Cal Poly 82
at UC Irvine 86, CSUN 74
Hawai’i 71, at Cal State Fullerton 59

Big West Conference Tournament
Thursday, March 14

No. 2 UC Santa Barbara vs. No. 7 CSUN, noon (9 a.m. Hawai’i time)
No. 3 Cal State Fullerton vs. No. 6 UC Davis, 2:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m. Hawai’i time)
No. 1 UC Irvine vs. No. 8 UC Riverside, 6:00 p.m. (3:00 p.m. Hawai’i time)
No. 4 Hawai’i vs. No. 5 Long Beach State, 8:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m. Hawai’i time)

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