Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Warriors look to capitalize on second chance with Cal Poly

It is rare during this lengthy pandemic to get back some lost time, but that’s exactly what the University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team was awarded with after a last-minute schedule switch has the Warriors playing host to Cal Poly this weekend after the original two-game home series was canceled on Christmas Day, about 48 hours prior to tipoff.

These “new” games, set for 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center, will be broadcast live statewide on Spectrum Sports Channel 12 and via radio on ESPN1420AM. Viewers outside Hawai’i may catch the game by livestream on BigWest.tv

Cal Poly (3-11 overall, 1-7 Big West Conference) had a bye this weekend, which enabled UH (5-5, 3-5) to play the Mustangs at home as originally planned, in exchange for canceling a two-game series at UC San Diego — games that would not have counted in the league standings due to UCSD being a provisional member after moving up from NCAA Division II status.

“We were thinking about playing these games (against UCSD), and now we’re thinking about playing these other games (vs. Cal Poly), so that’s great, let’s go, we get to compete,” Warriors coach Eran Ganot said. “We gotta be a little crazy and roll with it, and be excited about it, and that’s where we’re at. We always appreciate the opportunity to play this great game, to compete against the other team and to represent the ‘H,’ and even more so right now because of what we’ve lost in the last year. We’re just grateful to get the opportunity to get to practice every day, and there could be more adjustments moving forward.”

Even more important than the practice time is the opportunity to play games, after only two contests prior to Big West action. And especially games at home.

“Staying home is good, we get an extra day of practice, we just switched our mentality and now focus on Cal Poly,” said guard Junior Madut. “We need more reps, more games to get our chemistry to our full potential.”

Ganot said in a season full of surprises, this one was welcome since the Dec. 27-28 series with Cal Poly was originally described as a cancellation instead of a postponement.

“At the time they were canceled, I didn’t know if things were going to change with our league and let’s say we were on the road and the game we were (supposed to be) playing got canceled and another team had a bye week, we’ve seen that a little bit,” Ganot said. “All I can say is that we were notified, we told the team, and that was about how it went. It ended up working out that the team that had a bye, I guess, is the team we didn’t get to play. We’ve been fortunate that since that interruption with the opening series with Cal Poly, we’ve played every week. We’ve been hoping for that to happen, and just the way things have played out, we didn’t know if it would. To have now five straight weeks of games with this series coming up, is exciting for us. 

“But (with) everything you see it in our league, you see it nationally, you’re just grateful for the opportunity — you don’t know what to expect every week. You’re talking about our program being able to test negative every week three times, the other program, the officials … So we’ll continue to be grateful we can play games and will be hopeful that we can this weekend.”

The timing is good, since Hawai’i appears to be playing its best basketball of the season so far, after a shaky four-game losing streak last month.

“We’ve had this good stretch of games where we played with this passion and intensity on the defensive and rebounding end, and also in our voice, spirit and talk,” Ganot said. “So that needs to be there. In order for us to make our next move, we need to not lose that, build on that, and obviously evolve offensively. We’ve struggled there, we need to do a better job — I need to do a better job — of putting these guys in positions to be successful on the offensive end, and also getting them in a position where they’re playing with confidence in terms of the shots, being in the right spots. So I’m looking forward to chipping away at that, just like we chip away at the other end.” 

In last Saturday’s stunning 62-61 overtime home upset of first-place UC Irvine, the Warriors saw a four-point lead turn into a 13-point deficit following a 10-minute plus scoring drought that spanned the end of the first half into the early part of the second.

Ganot said the film revealed multiple reasons for the scoreless streak.

“I think it was a combination of things,” Ganot said. “I think earlier in the year when we missed some shots, it affected us on the other end. Right now it’s not, and that’s a great thing. But it is affecting us on the offensive end. I think unintentionally guys are trying to make plays on their own, and it’s put us in some tough situations. I think at times, we didn’t execute the play right, to be honest. We weren’t in the right spots, and we didn’t screen right or set up right, or a combination of those things that played into their hands. And then we got to the line, and missed some free throws. I think it’s a combination of all those things, I think sometimes, we missed some shots. 

“And I will say this — credit Irvine, which is one of the better defensive teams in the country. We thought we were making a move the week prior on the road, but we played a good defensive team and we gotta execute against whomever who we’re playing. We thought we had a good plan, but their pressure and us missing some shots, just like I think we did to them, it got us a little out of sorts. So we gotta get back to work and demand the execution and wrinkle some things. I gotta do a better job putting them into better positions and play with conviction on that.”

One bright spot on offense — again — was Madut, a 6-foot-6 junior wing who finished with a career-high 22 points and five assists. Madut, who is from Sydney, Australia, is a transfer from Eastern Florida State College.

“Eight games is not a lot of games in Division I play, and I think looking back at the first two games of non-conference and to where he’s at now, it’s proven it,” Ganot said. “I like where he’s at, I like where he’s headed — I don’t think he’s even scratched the surface. It’s not just the games, the travel, the different styles, different challenges, playing under the radar and (then) now being scouted … all those kinds of things. But you can see it’s helped his game, because he’s a complete player, he can do it on offense, he can do it on defense, he gets on the glass, he gets on the floor. Now he’s got to continue to improve as a decision-maker. But all that you have to go through, you think there’s an older experienced guy (there), but not at our level yet. But he’s improved, and we’re excited about that.”

Madut said his comfort level is growing as the season progresses.

“I think it’s been up and down for me, from the first couple games of the season,” Madut said. “But I feel like I’m a little more comfortable, and I’m relying on my defense when I’m not shooting. I have a lot of things I need to work on.”

Two of Madut’s steals last Saturday were immediately converted into fast-break dunks, something Madut said he hopes the team can do more of, especially when the offense is struggling. 

“We gotta execute on offense a lot better, we did a good job defensively and rebounding, but we need to make better plays on offense,” Madut said. “I think we are putting more energy into becoming a good defensive team, and we’ve got a bunch of great defenders, so I think we can give teams some trouble and get some buckets in transition.”

Meanwhile, at point guard, Ganot said he expects JoVon McClanahan, Biwali Bayles and Noel Coleman to continue to share minutes. 

“The way things have played out, Noel was coming along and then he had a week or 10 days when he couldn’t practice — that’s significant, especially when he hadn’t had that opportunity earlier,” Ganot said. “JoVon didn’t have that early in the season, (but) he’s had more reps now. Biwali is obviously continuing to be consistent with his spirit, his competitive juices on both ends of the floor. So we’ve seen us play two point guards together, I think (in) different games with different guard matchups, it’s good to have some flexibility there. You’ve seen us have Justin Webster bring the ball up, and Junior handle it often, so I think that’s helped us on the other end while we continue to evolve offensively, because we’ve put some good depth and some good pressure on other teams in terms of their offense.

“So I think down the road it’ll be good for guys to emerge, but they’ve each given us different things at different times.”

One thing that has been consistent recently is the vocal support from the UH bench, something that takes on greater importance in the absence of fans.

“It’s very important, it’s like when we’re on the court, that’s where we get our energy from — that’s our crowd for the game,” Madut said. “When the bench gets rowdy and supports us like that … it helps. Coach was talking to us about how playing for this team is different from playing for other teams, it’s more personal when they come here, so we gotta take a lot more pride in that than we have.”   

HAWAI’I (5-5, 3-5 Big West) vs. CAL POLY (3-11, 1-7 Big West)
When: Friday, Feb. 5 (7:00 p.m. HT) & Saturday, Feb. 6 (7:00 p.m. HT)
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

Friday, February 5
Long Beach State at UC Santa Barbara, canceled
UC Riverside at Cal State Fullerton, canceled
UC Davis at CSUN, 4:00 p.m. PT
CSU Bakersfield at UC Irvine, 4:00 p.m. PT
Cal Poly at Hawai’i, 7:00 p.m. HT

Saturday, February 6
Long Beach State at UC Santa Barbara, canceled
UC Riverside at Cal State Fullerton, canceled
Sacramento State at UC San Diego, 12:00 p.m. PT
UC Davis at CSUN, 2:00 p.m. PT
CSU Bakersfield at UC Irvine, 7:00 p.m. PT
Cal Poly at Hawai’i, 7:00 p.m. HT

* Non-conference game

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