Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Warriors close out home schedule vs. Long Beach State

In this most unique of Hawai’i men’s basketball seasons, even the traditional mainstay “Senior Night” is clouded in uncertainty.

With the NCAA allowing all current players an extra season due to the impact of COVID-19, Warrior seniors Casdon Jardine and James Jean-Marie have the option of returning next season. Otherwise, UH’s games against Long Beach State on Friday and Saturday at SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center will be their last in Hawai’i. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday and 5 p.m. Saturday, with both games scheduled to be broadcast live statewide via Spectrum TV (Channel 12) and ESPN1420 AM radio.

For out-of-state viewers, the games will be live streamed via BigWest.tv.  

“I can’t believe it’s here … it’s a very interesting feeling, bittersweet,” said Jardine, a graduate transfer from Utah Valley. “Still, the possibility of coming back still being prevalent, and a very real opportunity …”

Jardine said even with just 10 home games this season so far, he has become attached to playing at SimpliFi Arena.

“The Stan Sheriff Center is an awesome facility, it’s been a great place to play our games,” Jardine said. “I can’t imagine what it would be like with fans — with the fake noise it gets pretty loud, but with real fans I can guarantee it would be much better. But I am soaking it in right now, it’s starting to feel a little bit more real, that these are our last home games, and that we have to make the most of it.”

Both games will be crucial for both teams regarding the Big West Conference standings. Long Beach State (5-7 overall, 4-4) is currently in fifth place, while the Warriors (8-8, 6-8) are in seventh. After the regular season ends on March 6, the league’s top six teams will advance to the Big West Tournament quarterfinals on March 11, and the bottom four must win a first round game on March 9 in order to advance.

“These last four games of regular season play determine whether we play in the play-in game, which is something we definitely don’t want to do,” Jardine said. “We don’t want to be playing four games in a week in order to win the Big West Tournament, So it is truly on us, we have an opportunity to come together as a team, to play unselfishly, to play hard-nosed defense and give everything we’ve got for these two weeks. If we do, we’ll be really happy with the result, we’ll be really happy with our position going into the tournament. If we don’t, if we continue to play lackluster defense, not share the ball extremely well on offense, then we’re going to find ourselves in a tough position. 

“And it’s not the position I want to be in, for sure. So we need to go into this weekend and get a sweep, that’s really the only way to look at it. If we don’t get that, then we’re going to be disappointed. But we have total control over these two weeks of what we do and how we work and our defensive intensity that we bring.”

UH is coming off a road split at CSUN, where the Warriors squeaked past the Matadors, 75-74, on Feb. 19 before falling in overtime, 88-80, last Saturday. Especially in the second half of both games, CSUN used an up-tempo transition game to mount big comebacks after Hawai’i had built big double-digit leads. Long Beach State is coming off a home sweep of Cal Poly last weekend, winning 65-60 and 74-69, and traditionally is similar in style and personnel to the Matadors.

“I think our team can play both styles, I liked our team running the floor, and I thought that created a lot of separation for us,” Warriors coach Eran Ganot said. “The big thing was, not so much the up-tempo, but more the lack of our ability to match up defensively in transition, and then give up the 3. So I think the big thing for us is (Long Beach State) comes in with a lot of confidence. They have a veteran group back, and they’re coming off a sweep. They have a three-guard lineup that can score, they have an inside attack.”

Junior guard Michael Carter III led “Beach” last week with 23 points and 10 rebounds in the first victory, followed by a 15-point performance the next evening. Fellow guard Isaiah Washington scored 11 and 10 points, respectively, and the third guard, Chance Hunter, scored 14 points on Saturday. 

Ganot said despite allowing CSUN guard TJ Sparks to score 31 points on Feb. 19 and then 28 the next afternoon, the Warriors are up to the task of facing Long Beach State’s trio of high-scoring guards.

“I think our guys embrace the challenge of it,” Ganot said. “I think after 14 straight games we’ve seen different combinations — points of attack, inside, outside, shooters, guys who can get to the rim, transition, the whole deal. We’ve had ups and downs against those guys, but I think the experience will help us. We’ve got some prolific guys coming in here this week.”

Specifically, UH guards Biwali Bayles and Noel Coleman will bear much of the backcourt defensive responsibility.

“Junior (Madut) has taken on some of those (defensive) matchups, too,” Ganot said. “Those three have been the point of attack, but we gotta to do a better job as a team helping those guys, too. These guys who score, it starts with the point of attack, but we need to build a good wall around them as well. We’ve had a lot of good defenders coming in here, on our team, but some of those good defenders — even the best ones we’ve had — will get scored on at times. The great ones, though, they want to continue to have that matchup, they look forward to the next challenge. Guys who get scored on, get beat up a little bit and start to hesitate, question themselves … they can’t guard those guys. Just like if you have a guy with a lot of confidence on the offensive end, those defenders have a lot of confidence in themselves even if a guy might light them up sometime.”

To that end, Ganot said the focus for Jardine and Jean-Marie has been on the upcoming opponent week-to-week, and not so much on whether they will return for their extra year next season. So the traditional “Senior Night” festivities will not be expected Saturday night.

“This is the most unique year anyone has ever been a part of,” Ganot said. “We’ve been really trying to focus on today and enjoy the moment, grinding. Some of that stuff is different because you don’t have the fans in there, and guys have to be able to make that decision when they have some time to think after the season. In the meantime, you don’t want to look ahead to much, because it’ll take us out of our rhythm.

“It’s unique because we really haven’t had a moment to take a breath. I know we had the (early break), but since then we’ve gone seven straight weeks and hopefully we’ll get these next two weeks under our belt to finish the regular season, now that’ll be nine straight weeks, with travel, that I don’t think anyone else in our league has had. So it’s been really hard to have the moment to kind of look back and look ahead, things like that. We’ve had brief conversations about that, but I think the general consensus is, ‘Hey, let’s focus on the now, let’s try to correct things we need to correct and build some momentum going forward, and then all that (other) stuff, we’ll talk about at the end.’ “

Jardine agreed the focus is on finishing the regular season strong and positioning the team for a favorable run at the Big West Tournament.

“When you’re a younger guy in a program, you feel like you got so much time, (but) when you’re an older guy in the program, you feel like you gotta make the most of it,” Jardine said. “And to be honest, that’s something we can do better at all the time, helping these young guys realize that this year is an opportunity to make a run at the (NCAA Tournament). It’s an opportunity to build our program, an opportunity to build our culture. It’s something we can emphasize more than ever in these last two weeks, is building a culture to go into the (Big West) tournament. It’s having that culture steadfast, knowing our identity going into the tournament and knowing we have to guard and have to rebound. We can control our box-outs, we can control our talk, our defensive intensity, our attention to details. So that’s what we need to focus on these last two weeks. And I know that we’re going to, because it’s been a huge emphasis from our coaches.

“It all comes down to how much we want it. These last two weeks will be a big test, whether we really want it or not. And hopefully we do.”  

HAWAI’I (8-8, 6-8 Big West) vs. LONG BEACH STATE (5-7, 4-4 Big West)
When: Friday, Feb. 26 (7:00 p.m. HT) & Saturday, Feb. 27 (5:00 p.m. HT)
Where: SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center
Television: Spectrum Sports (Channels 12 / 1012)
Streaming Video: BigWest.TV 
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 Games
UC Davis at Cal Poly, 2:00 p.m. PT
UC San Diego at UC Irvine, 4:00 p.m. PT
CSUN at CSU Bakersfield, 7:00 p.m. PT
UC Santa Barbara at UC Riverside, 8:00 p.m. PT
Long Beach State at Hawai’i, 7:00 p.m. HT

Saturday’s Games
UC Davis at Cal Poly, 2:00 p.m. PT
UC San Diego at UC Irvine, 4:00 p.m. PT
CSUN at CSU Bakersfield, 7:00 p.m. PT
UC Santa Barbara at UC Riverside, 7:00 p.m. PT
Long Beach State at Hawai’i, 5:00 p.m. HT

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