Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

UPDATED: UC Riverside denies Warriors in Big West quarterfinals, 62-52

Abruptly ending an abbreviated University of Hawai’i men’s basketball season that was played under unprecedented restrictions, UC Riverside fittingly handcuffed and then snuffed out the Warriors, 62-52, Thursday night in Air Force Reserve Big West Championship Tournament quarterfinal action in Las Vegas. 

Photo courtesy Big West Conference

Playing in a mostly empty Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay resort, Dominick Pickett scored a game-high 14 points and made six steals, Jock Perry added 13 points and seven rebounds and Zyon Pullin added 10 points, five boards and five assists for the No. 3 seed Highlanders, who improved to 14-7 overall and advance to Friday’s semifinal vs. No. 2 seed UC Irvine. Junior Madut scored 12 points and grabbed five boards and Mate Colina added 10 points off the bench to lead the sixth-seeded Warriors, whose season ends at 11-10.

“It’s certainly tough right now, I just talked to the guys and there’s a finality to it,” UH coach Eran Ganot said. “But we don’t play for finality, we just feel like we’re gonna keep playing. Certainly with this group, the way they finished after a tough (1-4) start to conference, they were making strides. Credit Riverside, they’ve had a great year, we had two battles with them and I thought we had another battle. This was kind of a microcosm game of our season, it was another hard-fought game. Surprisingly we didn’t execute offensively early, but our defense was pretty consistent except for one area, defending the 3, and that’s an area where we’ve been one of the best in the country — we don’t give up many 3’s.

“But we had maybe the most lapses in giving up the 3 in this game, and it hurt us.”

The Highlanders made 9 of 24 attempts (37.5 percent) from beyond the arc, including 5 of 11 (45.5 percent) in the pivotal second half. Five different players (Pickett, Perry, Flynn Cameron, Wil Tattersall and George Willborn III) contributed from long range, from all angles around the arc.

“They have an inside-out attack,” Ganot said. “You talk about supporting your bigs, they’ve got Jock Perry in there, (Arinze) Chidom, a first-team All-Conference player in there, and they bring shooting. … You got Jock Perry, at his size (7-feet-1), has made 26 three’s on the year going into this game. Chidom has shot well in his career. Pickett, Pullin’s made a jump this year. And then you talk about Tattersall off the bench. That’s a lot, around good size. And that’s why they’ve had the season they’ve had.”

Photo courtesy Big West Conference

UC Riverside led 26-24 at halftime and opened the lead to 38-31 five minutes into the second half after Perry swished a 3-pointer from the left wing five minutes into the second half, and then 44-36 after Tattersall’s 3-pointer from beyond the top of the key with 12:24 remaining.

Madut then dropped in a 15-foot pull-up jumper from the left elbow to start a 13-5 run capped by James Jean-Marie’s 3-pointer from the left wing to tie it at 49-49 with 6:38 left.

The Highlanders answered with back-to-back baskets to take a 53-49 lead a minute later, then stretched the lead to 56-51 on Pickett’s 3-pointer from the right wing with 3:09 showing on the clock. Perry then hit a 12-footer from the right baseline to make it 58-51 with 2:24 remaining, and UC Riverside sank four free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.

UH did not make a field goal in the final 5:08 of the game.

“We had a good flow to cut it two (53-51), but we missed a tough one in the paint that (Arinze) Chidom had four fouls, we figure we’d go at him, but we turned it over and then missed a 3, and it kind of snowballed from there,” Ganot said. “It was a combination of that, and we missed an offensive rebound, a lapsed 3, put us on our heels a little bit and got the flow and momentum right back squarely with them. So I think at times during the year, we missed some good shots, and it’s led to some defensive lapses which have trickled to some key offensive lapses. So we needed to do a better job, and they capitalized on it.”

UC Riverside jumped out to a 10-5 lead in the first seven minutes and later opened it to 20-12 after an 8-2 run bookended by 3-pointers by Flynn Cameron and Wilborn, the latter with 7:28 remaining.

“I thought early, we were playing on our heels,” Ganot said. “Both teams pressured pretty well (on defense), and both teams weren’t very pleasing aesthetically offensively. But towards the end, the last 10 minutes of the first half, and first minutes of the second half, we found a good rhythm. But it’s tough to find a rhythm against them, they’re top 10 in the country in two-point percentage and obviously they’re big, they’re big at several positions. Their guards are experienced. So credit them there.” 

Photo courtesy Big West Conference

Noel Coleman finally broke the streak with a 15-foot pull-up jumper from the right elbow with 8:08 left, igniting a 10-2 run capped by Biwali Bayles’ fadeaway jumper from the opposite elbow to tie it at 22-22 with three minutes on the clock. Perry then broke a 24-24 tie with a hook shot 20 seconds before halftime to give the Highlanders a 26-24 edge at the break.

UC Riverside shot 35.5 percent (11 for 31) from the field in the first half, including 4 of 13 (30.8 percent) from 3-point range. Hawai’i was 10 of 27 (37 percent) from the field, hitting only 2 of 11 (18 percent) shots from beyond the arc. The Highlanders out-rebounded the Warriors, 19 to 13.

“We knew it was going to be a real tough, physical game, and Hawai’i brought it today in that sense,” Highlanders coach Mike Magpayo said. “And for us, when we don’t shoot as well, we know that we can rely on our defense and rebounding. And our defense did the job today.”

Perry said it was mostly a matter of sticking to the game plan.

“We were just following the scout, we knew that it was going to be a tough matchup,” Perry said. “We knew we had to take away their tendencies.”

Especially late in the second half, after the Warriors clawed back to tie the game, Magpayo said his team was able to dig deep and clamp down.

“Our defense really stepped up to the plate today,” Magpayo said. “That’s the one thing we know that we have: we know that we can defend. When it really, really matters, we can dig in. That’s all we talk about, is our fundamental coverages and we try to keep it really simple for the guys. Arinze really stepped up and took the challenge of guarding (Casdon) Jardine, did a great job and held him to eight points. And Jock held (James) Jean-Marie to five. So that was huge for us.”

Ganot gave his props to Magpayo, with whom he has coaching ties, and his own team for fighting through a season full of unique challenges.  

“I want to give Riverside credit, I’ve known Mike for a long time and have a lot of respect for what they’ve done over there and continue to do,” Ganot said. “They earned the win. It’s a pain for us, but respect for them. At the end of the day, I remain proud of our group, it’s been a challenging season for everybody. It hurts right now, but I remain very proud of our group.”

Big West Conference Championship Tournament
Mandalay Bay Resort, Las Vegas
Thursday, March 11

No. 1 UC Santa Barbara 95, No. 9 Long Beach State 87
No. 4 UC Davis 58, No. 5 CSU Bakersfield 56
No. 2 UC Irvine 58, No. 10 Cal Poly 51
No. 3 UC Riverside 62, No. 6 Hawai’i 52

Friday, March 12
No. 1 UC Santa Barbara vs. No. 4 UC Davis, 6:00 p.m. PT
No. 2 UC Irvine vs. No. 6 UC Riverside, 9:00 p.m. PT

Saturday, March 13
Championship, 8:30 p.m. PT

Leave a Response

Login or fill in the fields below to comment. (New user? Register)