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UPDATED: Warriors hold off Cal Poly, 65-61

Photo courtesy Chris Kadooka

Fighting off a crucial injury and a stubborn Cal Poly comeback, Hawai’i held off the visiting Mustangs, 65-61, Thursday night in rugged Big West Conference men’s basketball action.

A smallish-but-engaged crowd of 2,829 at the Stan Sheriff Center watched Eddie Stansberry score 17 points and Zigmars Raimo add 11 points and 14 rebounds as the Warriors improved to 11-6 overall and 2-1 in the Big West. Cal Poly fell to 4-13, 1-2.

“It was one of the craziest games I’ve been a part of, I don’t even know how to describe it,” UH coach Eran Ganot said. “You never know what each game could lead to, but that was crazy. It’s hard, because (I’m) a process guy, and there’s so many things we need to clean up. But it always beats the alternative … it felt like for a stretch there in the second half, you’re just trying to find a way to gut out win and look for answers and mix things around. 

“Give Cal Poly a lot of credit — we knew how hard they play and they were coming off a big win (vs. Cal State Northridge), they’re at full strength, playing with confidence and they’ve kind of found themselves.”

The Warriors led 45-29 five minutes into the second half, but the Mustangs clawed their way back and closed it to 58-57 after Tuukka Jaakkola’s free throw with 3:21 remaining. Stansberry answered with a 3-point swish from the left corner with 2:44 left, but Colby Rogers drained a 15-footer from the right elbow to cut the lead to 61-59 just 16 seconds later.

Drew Buggs then squeezed in a layup through heavy traffic to push the lead to 63-59 with one minute left, but Jaakkola dropped in a hook shot to close it to 63-61 with 40.2 seconds remaining.

After Buggs’ jumper from the free throw line fell short with 10 ticks on the clock, Jaakkola grabbed the rebound and hit the outlet man but a sideline pass to the front court resulted in a turnover, and Stansberry sank two free throws at the other end to effectively seal the victory with 0:05.5 seconds left.

Photo courtesy Brandon Flores

“Give (Cal Poly) credit, but whenever we got up by double digits,10 or 15, we had some lapses in judgement and they made you pay,” Ganot said. “If we took a bad shot or threw it away, it felt like they would come back every time and hit a 3.”

In a script-flip from last Saturday’s 74-60 loss at UC Irvine in which Hawai’i fell behind 11-0, this time it was the Warriors who jumped out to a 15-4 lead in the first five minutes-plus before extending it to 36-20 after a pair of free throws by Stansberry with 3:44 remaining in the first half. But the Mustangs closed out the period with a 9-2 run capped by Colby Rogers’ 3-pointer from the left corner with 1.6 seconds left to make it 38-29 at the break.

In another role reversal from its previous game, Hawai’i dominated the boards against Cal Poly, finishing with a plus-12 margin (47-35) in rebounding. What’s more, the Warriors grabbed 15 offensive boards to the Mustangs’ four, leading to an 11-1 advantage in “second chance points.” In its previous game, Hawai’i was out-rebounded by UC Irvine 49-34.

UH opened the second half with a 7-0 run capped by Bernardo da Silva’s free throw to make it 45-29 with 15:21 remaining, but Samuta Avea — the Warriors’ starting wing who had scored nine points and grabbed four rebounds — exited the game with an apparent back injury and sat out the next 10 minutes.

During that time span, Cal Poly cut the lead to 56-51 and appeared to have fresh legs thanks to a bench that eventually outscored Hawai’i’s reserves, 42-16.

Avea finally re-entered the game at the 4:51 mark, but then sat down for good less than 90 seconds later.

“I think he was in some pain, we will monitor it and obviously we’re gonna be smart about it — for him and for us,” Ganot said. “We were hoping during that stretch we could have hung in there, but we’ve talked about our depth … we’ve kind of been playing with fire and got away with it a bit, but (not) today.”

Stansberry said while things did not go exactly as planned late in the second half, the Warriors did what they could to weather the storm.

“It was just up and down, we were giving them looks and the game was just back-and-forth and they were knocking down shots and they made the game real close,” Stansberry said. “We just told ourselves we’ve got to lock in, and we got stops when we needed to get stops and got turnovers when we needed turnovers, and it came out in our favor. We got the victory.”

Photo courtesy Chris Kadooka

Raimo said UH’s past experience in tight games proved valuable.

“We have a bunch of clutch players, we are all capable of stepping up and just knock down a shot,” Raimo said. “For us, it’s good we have a bunch of experienced guys … I trust my team and at the end of the game, I’m confident we’re going to find a way to win.”

The Warriors return to the SSC floor at 8 p.m. Saturday against UC Santa Barbara (12-5, 1-1).

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Big West Conference
Thursday’s Results
UC Davis 85, at Long Beach State 82
CSUN 80, at UC Riverside 68
at Hawai’i 65, Cal Poly 61

Saturday’s Games
UC Davis at CSUN
Cal State Fullerton at Long Beach State
UC Riverside at UC Irvine
UC Santa Barbara at Hawai’i, 8:00 p.m. (Hawai’i time)

1 Comment

  1. Well at least they got the victory!

    Ucsb should be a hype game!

    Go bows!

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