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UPDATED: Warriors stunned by 49ers, 68-66; eliminated from Big West tourney

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Jordan Roberts swished a 15-foot jumper from the left elbow with 0.5 seconds remaining Thursday night to lift Long Beach State to a pulsating 68-66 victory over Hawai’i in thrilling Big West Conference men’s basketball quarterfinal action at the Honda Center. 

The 49ers overcame an 18-point first-half deficit and rallied from 12 down with seven minutes remaining in the game to improve to 15-18 and will face regular season champion UC Irvine (28-5) in Friday’s semifinals. Barring an unlikely postseason tournament invitation, the Warriors’ season will end in heartbreak at 18-13 after a third straight Big West quarterfinal loss.

This one may hurt the worst, considering UH was in command for most of the first half — leading by 18 points at one juncture — and much of the second, only to see things disintegrate rapidly at the sneaky hands of Long Beach State’s menacing full-court press.

“We had a lead for about 36 minutes and then it just got a little crazy for us,” Warriors coach Eran Ganot said. “I was happy with how we settled down after they made it close in the first half, but then (the press) reared its ugly head again with our turnovers and shot selection. Give credit to Long Beach and the way they battled. Obviously, their biggest thing was how they used the press.

“Our group is in pretty good shape, but it is hard to simulate anything like that in practice. Initially, we could have handled it better. We created five 2-on-1 opportunities off rebounds, but I think more than anything, it (the press) got us out of sorts. We have good depth so we threw some guys against it, but give Long Beach credit — they got us with that press.”  

UH jumped out to a 13-2 lead in the game’s first four minutes and stretched it to 33-15 on Eddie Stansberry’s 3-pointer from the right wing with 5:53 remaining, but the 49ers resorted to full-court pressure to disrupt the Warriors’ offense and fuel a stunning 14-2 run that closed it to 35-29 on Drew Cobb’s layup with 1:15 left. Samuta Avea scored on a layup with 43 seconds remaining to put Hawai’i up 37-29 at halftime, but it was evident by then that no lead would be safe.

When asked what made Long Beach State decide to apply full-court pressure in the first half, 49ers coach Dan Monson said, “Desperation.”

“It’s (potentially) the last game and I told them in these situations you have to be the aggressor,” Monson said. “And that’s not jacking shots — that’s getting rebounds and getting deflections and disrupting the other team. Everybody thinks it’s the team that gets in a flow and it’s not, it’s the defense of a team that lets you get into a flow. We let them get into way too much of a flow, and we tried man (defense), we tried zone … so (full-court pressure) was the next step, because we couldn’t guard them in the halfcourt.

“We thought if we pressed and took eight or nine seconds off the (shot) clock, they couldn’t get into a flow.”

The Warriors clung to the lead in the second half and built it back up to 12 points at 59-47 after Stansberry’s layup with 7:03 remaining, but full-court pressure again forced them into more turnovers and fueled another Long Beach State comeback, this time with the 49ers eventually taking a 63-61 lead after Cobb’s two free throws with 3:07 left.

“We had a good plan in place to beat the press and when they first went to it we executed very well, but as the game went on it got us out of rhythm,” Stepteau said. “Even when we weren’t turning the ball over, we took some shots we didn’t want to. We handled it better in the second half, but we gave them confidence in the first half when we let them come back, and because of that, they felt they could win the game. So credit them for stepping up and making those big shots.” 

Zigmars Raimo scored on a layup to tie it at 66-66 with 21.3 seconds remaining, but the 49ers wound the clock down to seven seconds and eventually worked the ball to Roberts, who elevated and lofted the game-winning high-arching jumper over the outstretched arms of Jack Purchase.

“(Monson) wanted me to get to the rim and draw a foul, or draw some attention and find a teammate,” said Long Beach State point guard Deishaun Booker, who finished with 15 points and fed Roberts the assist. “But coming out (of the timeout) he (Roberts) told me his man was going to hedge, and to find him (because) he’ll be open and he’ll knock down the shot, and he did.”

Roberts came off the bench to score a game-high 18 points and lead his team with nine rebounds.

“Hawai’i came out really fighting,” Roberts said. “Considering all the seniors we have, I just didn’t want the season to end like this. So I just tried to come in and be a factor as best as I could.”

Raimo led Hawai’i with 14 points and 10 rebounds and Stepteau and Stansberry each added 12 points.

“Tough, tough — it’s hard to be in that locker room (now), but it’s also part of the deal,” Ganot said. “I have a lot of appreciation and love for our guys and the effort they played with all year. It didn’t go our way tonight. You shift gears when you go through this and think about everything these guys have been through, and so much they have given to us both on and off the floor.”

CLICK HERE to view boxscore

(Game photos courtesy Brandon Flores / www.brandonfloresphotography.com

CLICK HERE to view photo gallery

Big West Conference Tournament
Thursday’s Quarterfinal Results

No. 2 UC Santa Barbara 71, No. 7 CSUN 68
No. 3 Cal State Fullerton 75, No. 6 UC Davis 71 (OT)
No. 1 UC Irvine 63, No. 8 UC Riverside 44
No. 5 Long Beach State 68, No. 4 Hawai’i 66

Friday’s Semifinals
No. 1 UC Irvine vs. No. 5 Long Beach State, 6:30 p.m. PT (3:30 p.m. Hawai’i time)
No. 2 UC Santa Barbara vs. No. 3 Cal State Fullerton, 9:00 p.m. PT (6:00 p.m. Hawai’i time)

Saturday’s Championship
Semifinal winners, 9:00 p.m. PT (6:00 p.m. Hawai’i time)

2 Comments

  1. yup…guess i was right

  2. jjay – Share your pain. I hesitated to go and decided to support the team at the last minute. What a big mistake.

    Our coaching is totally unacceptable. We have witnessed too many 2nd half collapses throughout this season and the past 2 seasons since the hiring of Ganot. We’ve had leads to start the 2nd half only to lose the game as the players run the offense until the shot clock is close to expiring and then force up a shot. In doing so, they pass up good shots early on the shot clock and then have to put up bad shots to avoid a shot clock violation; turn the ball over while running the offense and the opposing team scores on each occasion; or players get “gun shy” and don’t want to shoot because they missed previous shots. When you have a lead, keep pressing on and take those good shots even if early on during the shot clock. Take advantage of numbers and get point off of fast breaks. IMO, we have a “Norm Chow” basketball coach. Get a lead, run the clock, only to have the other team win in the end.

    Free throws? Do they not shoot free throws in practice or on their own time? We call Ziggy, “Mr. miss one, make one.” If we’re lucky.

    Not being able to break the press – players are taught this in high school. This is a college team from crying out loud and coaches should be able to make the appropriate adjustments or substitutions as needed. TAVS – I hear you loud and clear!

    Parkpill – On recruiting, go to bigwest.org and see who the other teams have listed as recruits for next season and tell us what Hawaii lists. http://www.bigwest.org/sports/mbball/release.pdf Scrolll down to pg. 9 or 40. Some teams list 4 to 5 recruits for next year. Your answer will support “one and done minus one!” As long as we are “one and done” like we have been in the past years, the program will not be able to attract 2 to 3 good quality recruits and will be “one and done” for years to come. We have Jessiya Villa returning from his mission next season. We hope?

    Attendance at this season’s games was very low similar to football. We’ve got to wonder why? They fluff the schedule up front so they go into conference play with a decent record only to lose in the end.

    To All of the Hawaii UH Men’s Basketball fans – Let’s face it. The University Administration is happy to have a coach who has got us out from under NCAA sanctions and has good “Student” athletes. This coach talks about this being a “culture” A culture for most of us means winning games so we have no culture. Winning is not a priority by this Administration. Winning is a bonus after all other things. We’ve got to make winning a priority, find innovative ways to offer a better salary to attract a coach that can recruit and win games. The State of Hawaii is buzzing when we have a winning team and this equates to better economy during these times.

    Dave Matlin – wake up!

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