Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Warriors build on lessons from Bakersfield sweep

Cal State Bakersfield not only handed Hawai’i a pair of hard-hitting Big West Conference men’s basketball defeats last weekend — the Roadrunners also provided the Warriors with a hopeful first-hand look at their future selves.

Bakersfield, the country’s “most experienced” team in terms of veterans remaining with the program, also has played the most overall games of any Big West opponent (13). That experience, plus a noticeable difference in physicality and sustained intensity, helped the Roadrunners beat UH, 60-55, last Friday and 83-72 on Saturday.

Photo courtesy Brandon Flores

“You’re talking about the most experienced team in the country, who has played the most games in our league, and I think it showed,” Warriors coach Eran Ganot said. “So maybe there’s a lesson in there for us to learn from them in that regard. We have great respect for them, I wanted to say that first (thing) after the game: you have to give them credit for the way they performed. They’re an intelligent team, I mean we had great stretches, we started both games strong up 12-4 and 9-0, and they fought back. And their physicality can wear on you. I thought our defense left us in the second game, we tried to make a run and got into a flow offensively, and then their rebounding — they must have beat us plus-10 in the last 10 minutes of the game. 

“When you’re trying to make a stop, and they get a putback layup, we get deflated, and we can’t get deflated.”

The Warriors (3-3 overall, 1-3 Big West) had convincing non-conference victories over Hawai’i Pacific and UH-Hilo, and a road win at UC Riverside in their Big West opener on Jan. 8. But Cal State Bakersfield presented an entirely different challenge, and was relentless in its pursuit to gain a sweep at the SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center. It was a wake-up call for a Warriors team still trying to find its chemistry and identity with seven newcomers mixed along with seven returnees.

“We have a lot of newcomers on our team this year, and I respect Bakersfield for playing that hard, because it taught us a lot as a team,” said senior post James Jean-Marie, a transfer from San Diego. “That’s how hard we’re supposed to play to win a game. And we actually learned a lesson to compete as hard as we can.”

Ganot said that in previous seasons such lessons were learned much earlier during single non-league games against formidable Division I opponents, and during the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, which annually features mid-major or even ranked teams from seven different DI conferences. Due to the impacts of COVID-19, UH had no such preparation this season.

“Yeah, we’re going through these reps now, which is fine, it is what it is,” Ganot said. “It’s the reality of the situation where we didn’t get those opportunities (earlier). We need to find a way to perform with the problem we’ve been dealt with. There’s a reason, even with the new group we have and the Diamond Head, that we scheduled North Carolina here, Washington State here, on the road at Santa Clara … With a new group, people might think we were crazy to do that, but the objective there was to get ready for league and to throw the new guys into the fire. So they’re kind of going through that now, and there’s a pain that comes with this struggle we’re currently in. And certainly we’d always rather do it early than do it late, but again that’s the reality of it and I’m glad we’re going through it.

“And I really believe there’s a lesson there for us, and I’m excited to get back to work.”

Photo courtesy Brandon Flores

Ganot said much of the work this week will focus on defense and rebounding.

“Defense and rebounds needs to be our hallmark, it’s definitely our foundation,” Ganot said. “A lot of people talk about traditionally how we move the ball and share the ball, and we’re one of the Top 25 teams in the country in assists percentage the past five years. This year, we’re not, and that’s a disappointing thing. So we’ve had games where we had the lead and performed offensively, we’ve had games where we out-rebounded teams, but we haven’t put it together at the same time. 

“At the end of the day, though, we might have some tough shooting nights, maybe miss some good looks, and we did, certainly in Game 2. But our defense and our rebounding has to always be there. We need to be flowing in all three phases, and we need to have some more games where everybody is clicking at the same time. I’m looking forward to getting to that point, and we will.”

Jean-Marie said the Warriors will use the lessons learned from the Bakersfield losses and make the necessary improvements.

“I feel like we learned a lot, especially because we need to adjust on defense,” Jean-Marie said. “And on offense, we’ve got to execute better.”

Ganot said despite the losses, there was much to be gained from last weekend.

“Experience — seeing some of the things we need to do to compete at this level,” Ganot said. “(Trying to) continue to find consistency. Experience can be good or bad, but it can really help you if you use it the right way. There were flashes, positive things for us, but (for) key stretches in both games we were stagnant and then our defense went away. So what can we learn from it? We need to find that consistency to compete the way we need to compete. We’re still trying to get a chemistry with our team, fighting through pressure on the offensive end, a higher level of focus to execute and run what we want to run. Not letting missed shots dictate how we perform on the other end of the court. 

“It was a tough two games for us, but I’m excited to get back to work and clean up some of the things that were exposed. So I’ll say experience, and getting exposed in areas we can clean up. … Losses for great teams, are real team builders, you can really come together during the struggle. So that’s where and how we’ll come together.”

The Warriors will head back to the road for Big West games at Cal State Fullerton on Friday and Saturday.

When: Friday, Jan. 22 (5:00 p.m. PT) & Saturday, Jan. 23 (5:00 p.m. PT)
Where: Titan Gym – Fullerton, Calif.
TV: None
Streaming Video: www.espn3.com
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: FullertonTitans.com

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