Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Warriors meet new Big West member CSU Bakersfield

For the first time since joining the Big West Conference in 2012-13, the University of Hawai’i will welcome a new conference opponent to SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center.

Cal State Bakersfield, a program that advanced to the National Invitation Tournament semifinals in 2017, will hit the floor against the Warriors at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Both games will be broadcast live on statewide TV via Spectrum Sports and via radio on ESPN1420AM. The Roadrunners are 7-4 (3-1 Big West) and have played more overall games than any other Big West team so far, seven more than UH (3-1, 1-1).

“Real excited — certainly a new challenge, new program, and a program that has done really well,” Warriors coach Eran Ganot said. “I remember when I was in the (West Coast Conference) and BYU entered our league, and I remember their first game, and it was exciting. I know it’s exciting for our guys … but you also have to have great respect for what they’ve done over there.” 

Hawai’i co-captain Casdon Jardine, a graduate transfer who played at Utah Valley last season, is familiar with the new foe.

“Bakersfield is new to the conference this year, but they’re not new to me, technically, because I was in the (Western Athletic Conference) last year, so I got to play them two times,” Jardine said. “They’re a very physical team, they’re similar to Riverside in the ball pressure side of things, and they’ll rebound very hard, something that they’ve done year in and year out. So we can expect that. They are going to have a slightly new look, but they’re gonna have the same high-energy, high-intensity, attack-the-boards feel that I was used to last year.

“The rebounding battle is going to be important for us going forward in a lot of conference games; we won’t win the games where we don’t rebound the ball.”

The Roadrunners are coming off a home sweep of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo after splitting their opening league series at Long Beach State. They are a veteran team, led by seven seniors.

And yet, they’re new to all Warriors except Jardine.

“In league you usually have a lot of past years’ experience, but not so much with Bakersfield,” Ganot said. “I do know we have great respect for their program, for their head coach (Rod Barnes). You talk about the NIT Final Four (in 2017), and before that the NCAA Tournament (in 2016), they do a great job. They hang their hat on toughness, you can see that on the defensive end and on the boards, they’re No. 1 in the country on offensive boards. They’ve always been good on the boards. They’re (also) No. 1 in the country in experience, in terms of (players) being in the program, which is important as we know, especially during these times.”

UH did gain valuable experience in last week’s road split at UC Riverside, and showed they have at least three players who can fill up the bucket in a big way with James Jean-Marie pumping in 24 points in the Jan. 8 victory, Junior Madut adding 21 and then Jardine pouring in 26 in Saturday’s 70-68 loss.

“I don’t think we need to rely on that, the game will dictate that, and the way we still play it’s about putting the ball in different guys’ hands and making the decision, having multiple playmakers,” Ganot said. “So James and Junior the first night, people were taking away other guys and they could perform, and they did. The other night, because of their success, they were targeted a bit more, and that opened things up for Cas. And I think you could see him having a big night, and other guys on our team — Noel (Coleman), Biwali (Bayles), JoVon (McClanahan), Web (Justin Webster). And I think that’s the beauty of our team is we have different guys who can make things happen for us on the offensive end.”

Jardine said having different players take the lead offensively in different games is crucial, especially in the new league format of consecutive games against the same opponent.

“It has to be that way, if we’re going to be successful as a team, it can’t be a game-changing factor of who is going to provide for us every night,” Jardine said. “We have a team that is very talented and multi-dimensional. We don’t have one guy who’s gotta score the ball for us every game. If we as a team can really get on that train of supporting our teammates when they’re feeling it, we’re gonna win more games. That’s when basketball is fun, that’s when there’s more chemistry.

“When we have any type of ‘me’ mentality, then that’s when we’re going to struggle. So hopefully going forward that can be a huge emphasis for us and ride the wave of whoever is hot that night, because the next night, it’s more likely to be you.”

Jardine, a 6-foot-7 forward, entered this week leading the entire nation in 3-point shooting percentage after draining 11 of 16 attempts (68.8 percent) from beyond the arc.

“It’s a cool thing, I feel like it’s a pretty big achievement,” Jardine said. “But at the same time, it’s just super funny because it’s so early in the season, but technically we’re late in the season. Usually four games into the season, you’re barely starting, but we’re jumping right into conference … It’s a different feel to it now, but everything is important right now, everything matters. It was a surprise, though.”

Ganot said it’s not such a surprise to see Jardine’s early success, although he appreciates it just the same.

“We knew he was someone who could really help us on the floor,” Ganot said. “This is a guy who has shot the ball really well, has scored double-digits throughout his career. The four spot is a really critical position for us, and it’s been really fun to watch him grow in that position. Obviously he can shoot the ball, and he’s making great decisions, he’s making great plays, he’s posting up. He took on a challenge in guarding a really good four-man in our league. I was just excited to see how he’s continued to grow. 
“We take it for granted because he’s an older guy, but he’s new to our program and will continue to get better for us.”

Jardine said although he is regarded as a shooter, he wants to do more than just that.

“I feel like in the past year, I put a lot of work into expanding my game and not just being one-dimensional,” Jardine said. “If you can only shoot the ball, then you’re easy to guard, and I want to see things that really open up my game. Once a couple shots go down, then more opens up. I’ve been working a lot with (assistant) coach (Chris) Gerlufsen throughout this season, he’s preached to ‘just slow down, play at your pace and let the game happen.’ So I think that’s what I’ve been trying to do.” 

Ganot said Jardine’s vocal presence has been key to his leadership.
“He’s very positive, and the way he plays is kind of how he is off the court,” Ganot said. “There’s a reason he got voted team captain, and it’s not just because he’s a good player, but (also) because they look up to him. He has consistently high energy, and a voice.”

Jean-Marie, a 6-8 post, had 21 points in the season opener against Hawai’i Pacific and is the Warriors’ leading scorer at 15.8 points per game. But for Madut, a 6-6 wing, his 21-point burst in the Jan. 8 victory was a breakthrough after scoring only four points against HPU and nine versus UH Hilo.

“I think he’s more low-key, but he’s an intelligent young man,” Ganot said. “We like where he’s at, and like where he’s headed. The first couple games, you could see how anxious he was, because he loves the game, and he hadn’t been able to play for a while. You’re seeing now a couple breakthroughs, he performed really well on the road. His versatility is really a bonus for us, because he can play both sides of the ball, he can move around. But I still think you’re going to see more great things from him, he’s far from a finished product. So we’re excited about his continued growth, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s gonna add strength, and those reps under his belt that he will continue to build off of. 

“We have a lot of great young men in our program, they all have different personalities, and that’s the great part of this journey every year. To watch them grow, and grow together.”

Ganot said he hopes to see others make their breakthroughs throughout the season, and says that is one reason he expects to go deep into the bench again this weekend.

“You could see the jump in Junior and Cas, in terms of their comfort level, and I think other guys can make similar jumps as they get comfortable,” Ganot said. “There’s a situation where it’s good for us to play 10 guys.”

The Warriors got tested late in the Jan. 8 victory at UC Riverside, when the Highlanders applied full-court pressure and cut an 11-point lead down to three. But Ganot said the key at the end of both games was on the defensive end.

“I would say this, we had that one turnover late against the press, when we dribbled it off our foot and they got a layup,” Ganot said. “But other than that we handled the press well, we could have been better at getting to the right spots, and we’ll lean on that. But we did not defend well late in either of these two games, so sometimes you get behind and come back, and sometimes you get ahead and need to finish strong. Then it comes down to taking care of the ball, free throw shooting, and no defensive lapses.”
Jardine said communication will be a key to preventing those defensive lapses.

“Talk is contagious, especially on the court,” Jardine said. “So if we can have someone on the court who is always talking, then we just add that aspect to our defense and it’s huge. Calling out screens, calling out help, all those things we need to do to make sure we are playing team defense. It’s contagious, so hopefully we can get all the guys doing that as second nature.”

When: Friday, Jan. 15 (7:00 p.m.) & Saturday, Jan. 16 (7:00 p.m.)
Where: SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center – 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

Big West Conference
Friday’s Games

Cal State Fullerton at UC Davis, canceled
UC Riverside at Cal Poly, 4 p.m. PT
CSUN at Long Beach State, 4 p.m. PT
UC San Diego at UC Santa Barbara, 5 p.m. PT
CSU Bakersfield at Hawai’i, 7 p.m. HT

Saturday’s Games
Cal State Fullerton at UC Davis, canceled
UC Riverside at Cal Poly, 4 p.m. PT
CSUN at Long Beach State, 4 p.m. PT
UC San Diego at UC Santa Barbara, 5 p.m. PT
CSU Bakersfield at Hawai’i, 7 p.m. HT

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