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UPDATED: UC Irvine holds off Warriors, 53-51

A familiar foe led by a familiar face led to an all-too-familiar result Friday night, as senior center Brad Greene scored 18 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked five shots — including a crucial stuff with 24 seconds remaining — to help visiting UC Irvine hold off Hawai’i, 53-51, in a Big West Conference men’s basketball struggle.

Photo courtesy Brandon Flores / www.brandonfloresphotography.com

The victory at the SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center — the Anteaters’ seventh straight win over the Warriors spanning the past four seasons — improved their record to 9-4 overall and 5-0 in the Big West. Casdon Jardine scored a team-high 14 points and grabbed five boards and James Jean-Marie added 12 points and six more rebounds to lead UH, which fell to 4-5, 2-5. The same two teams will go at it again at 7 p.m. Saturday, with the game broadcast live on statewide TV with Spectrum Sports (Channel 12) and via radio at ESPN1420 AM. 

The Warriors had a chance to win it at the final horn Friday, but Justin Webster’s 28-foot shot from well beyond the top of the key was off to the left and glanced off the backboard as time expired.

“Tough, physical game, obviously could have gone either way,” Hawai’i coach Eran Ganot said. “Really proud of our team, I think they continue to step up from the game before at Fullerton in terms of defensive energy. Couldn’t be prouder of their effort tonight, even with our execution late — getting the foul, getting the opportunity to win the game, getting the shot we wanted … I think a big difference in the game was a couple key 50/50 balls and position around the rim and in transition, two-on-ones that we didn’t convert, shots around the rim.

“But I leave today with getting back to work tonight and tomorrow, and I’m really proud of this group.”

UC Irvine led, 25-22, after a closely contested defensive first half in which neither team was up by more than five points.

The Anteaters led 29-24 a couple minutes into the second half, but Webster drained a deep 3-pointer from well beyond the top of the key to ignite a 7-2 run capped by Jean-Marie’s two free throws which put the Warriors ahead, 34-31, with 14:36 remaining.

Austin Johnson then muscled in a layup to help UCI answer back with an 8-0 run culminating in Greene’s layup which made it 39-34 with 11:11 left.

Photo courtesy Brandon Flores / www.brandonfloresphotography.com

“When we get those leads, we gotta keep ’em, we gotta execute defensively,” said Webster, a sophomore guard who finished with nine points and five rebounds. “The main thing is, this team loves to rebound, so you have to box out, you have to rebound, and try to get every board. We definitely learned, and we’ll take that into tomorrow and we’ll be ready.” 

The Warriors got as close as 50-49 after Jean-Marie swished a 15-foot jumper near the left elbow with 1:39 remaining, and they gained possession again trailing 51-49 with 45 seconds left after a free throw miss by Collin Welp. Hawai’i then got the ball inside to 6-foot-8 post Jean-Marie under the basket, but his layup attempt was blocked by the 6-11, 270-pound Greene and the Anteaters secured the rebound.

“You know, you gotta give it to (Greene), he plays very physical, and he played very dominant tonight,” said Jardine, a senior forward. “He was a big presence for them on the offensive end, and I’d say even more on the defensive end. So that’s something we gotta expect, because a guy with his size, and his skills set, he can do it every night. So we gotta play harder, play more physical … and more disciplined, get two feet in the paint. We can’t go off one foot and expect the foul call, because he goes vertical pretty well, so we gotta simplify the game and take what the defense is going to give us.”

Isaiah Lee was then fouled on the next possession and sank both ends of a 1-and-1 to make it 53-49 with 15.1 ticks on the clock. After Jardine scored on a driving layup to cut it to 53-51 with five seconds remaining, Lee was fouled again but missed the front end of a 1-and-1.

Jardine grabbed the rebound and quickly passed to Webster, who dribbled past halfcourt and then launched a 28-foot attempt at the horn, but the shot was off to the left and bounced off the backboard.

Photo courtesy Brandon Flores / www.brandonfloresphotography.com

“I felt pretty good, I still feel like I could have taken that one last dribble and catch my breath a little and get a good shot,” Webster said. “But our team is going to trust me to make those shots, and that’s all I can ask for. The next time that opportunity presents itself, I will definitely be ready for it. But it was a great team effort, and we’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”

The Warriors were able to contain All-Big West forward Welp, a 6-foot-9 junior who finished with seven points and five rebounds. But trying to stop Greene, a fourth-year senior, was another story.

“He really kicked our tail in transition,” Ganot said. “I thought we did a good job trying to (stop) their interior, obviously they have a lot of front-court players they can roll at you with experience. I thought we did a good job trying to mix things up on them and trying to make them uncomfortable, but then they beat us on the glass (39 rebounds to 32) and Greene certainly hurt us with ball screens and going to the rim. We gotta be better there, I think we’re close, but obviously there are going to be a lot of adjustments both ways.”

UCI head coach Russell Turner said: “We are pleased with the win and feel fortunate we were able to pull that out even though we shot the ball poorly from 3 and free throws tonight. We always say defense and character travel and tonight was a good testament of that because it was a hard game to not be frustrated in. We were shaky with the ball and Hawai’i did a great job getting after us and expending our energy. But we defended consistently and gave ourselves a chance to win in the end.”

Both Webster and Jardine, UH’s co-captains, said the team has a renewed pride in defending the home court, after being swept by visiting CSU Bakersfield in back-to-back games two weeks ago.

“We had a team meeting last week after we lost that first game at Cal State Fullerton and we came together and just felt like we need to play harder,” Webster said. “Some of these teams have had a (longer) preseason and got to play other teams, but we’re still starting to figure it out and starting to peak, so I feel like this next month, we’ll be able to show teams what we’re about. We gotta keep our pride and keep believing in each other and trusting each other, and keep playing hard.”

Jardine said losing those two home games to Bakersfield was a loud and much-needed wake-up call.

Photo courtesy Brandon Flores / www.brandonfloresphotography.com

“The Bakersfield series at home here was embarrassing,” Jardine said. “All of us felt embarrassed, we didn’t feel like we represented the school very well, we didn’t represent our families very well, so both of the names on our jerseys — we were embarrassed for. So it was a statement for us tonight, it was a statement for us going into the road games at Fullerton, to be the aggressor. Especially in that second one, that’s when we really had to turn the switch.

“But tonight it was the same thing, we had to carry it over, we had to be together as a team. I thought that defensively, we played a great game. (But) I felt like we had the ball stuck in the first half and didn’t move it around like we should have. But we saw it moving in the second half and saw our offense flourish more in the second half. So I think we gotta carry over our defensive effort from tonight, with our offense from the second half, and keep playing as a team — that one hundred percent has to be our focus, is team basketball.”

Ganot used a different starting lineup on Friday – Biwali Bayles, Jovon McClanahan and Webster at guards, Jardine at forward, and Mate Colina at center.

Usual starters Junior Madut and Jean-Marie were not in the starting lineup because of disciplinary reasons, but both entered the game after the first timeout.

It was also announced on Friday that sophomore guard Kameron Ng will be opting out for the remainder of the season due to COVID-19 concerns. Players who opt out this season are eligible to return without penalty. Ng is the second UH player to opt out (Samuta Avea was the first).

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HAWAI’I (4-5, 2-5 Big West) vs. UC IRVINE (9-4, 5-0 Big West)
When: Saturday, Jan. 30 (7:00 p.m. HT)
Where: SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center â€“ Honolulu, HI
Television: Spectrum Sports – Channels 12 (SD) and 1012 (HD).
Streaming Video: BigWest.TV (Must be a Spectrum cable subscriber to stream in Hawai’i).
Radio: Live on ESPN Honolulu (1420 AM/92.7 FM), KRKH (Maui), KPUA (Hawai’i Island), and KTOH (Kaua’i).
Audio Webcast: ESPNHonolulu.com/Sideline Hawai’i App.
Live Stats: HawaiiAthletics.com

Friday’s Results
UC San Diego at Long Beach State, canceled
at Cal Poly 76, CSUN 70
UC Santa Barbara 72, at UC Davis 51
Cal State Fullerton 90, at CSU Bakersfield 84
UC Irvine 53, at Hawai’i 51

Saturday’s Games
UC San Diego at Long Beach State, canceled
CSUN at Cal Poly
UC Santa Barbara at UC Davis
Cal State Fullerton at CSU Bakersfield
UC Irvine at Hawai’i



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