Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Warriors look to finish strong

The finish line has been a distant and elusive place for the Hawai’i men’s basketball place in recent games, but the Warriors are hoping to take a more direct path soon.

After a narrow home sweep of stubborn Long Beach State last weekend, UH hopes to take the lessons learned into this coming weekend’s games at UC Davis on Friday and Saturday. More specifically, the Warriors are aiming to grab an early lead, progressively widen it, and then slam the door shut before any hopes of an Aggies comeback.

So far that formula has been easier said than done for Hawai’i, which is 10-8 overall and 8-8 in the Big West Conference. But Warriors coach Eran Ganot is hoping the experience gained through those tight contests will pay dividends as the season winds down.

“We’ve played 16 (league) games and it feels like we’ve been in 16 close games and battles, and so for a young group to be in those reps, I think that can help us moving forward,” Ganot said. “It’s a process, and so now we’ve got guys who have been in those situations and I think you could argue we’ve been in more of those than any team in our league. In terms of long-term growth, it’s good for us.”

In the first victory over the Beach last Friday night, UH fell behind by 16 points in the first half and trailed by 13 four minutes into the second, before rallying to take a 76-71 lead with 1:15 remaining. The Warriors hung on to win, 78-76, but only after Chance Hunter’s 3-point attempt was online but grazed the front of the rim as time expired. 

In the hana hou match Saturday, Hawai’i turned a 10-point deficit early in the second half into a 15-point lead, only to see Long Beach State rally back and nearly send the game into overtime when Michael Carter III’s 3-point attempt from beyond the top of the key circled the rim and then rolled out at the final horn.

Ganot said achieving consistency throughout a 40-minute game has been a challenge for his youthful team that has only two seniors on the roster. 

“It’s something you chip away at,” Ganot said. “You have experienced guys and younger guys who learn from that experience. This year we’ve had to go through both at the same time, and that’s why I’ve said it’s been great for us to have to play in so many close games. Making comebacks and playing with a lead, you gotta be able to handle success and handle failure. Our team’s been pretty resilient as far as fighting back, but we need to prolong our effective play stretches, but we’ve had these discrepancies both ways. We have to shorten those stretches where we’re not playing well. I think we compound the problems by pressing a little bit when we’re not playing as well. So let’s say we miss some free throws, the front ends of 1-and-1, or we miss some good looks, and now it transfers on the defensive end and we start taking bad shots. We gotta stop doing that.”

Sophomore co-captain Justin Webster said the Warriors did not talk enough about slamming the door shut on the Beach in the final minutes of either game, and that lack of verbal commitment translated onto the court.

“We’ll get those big leads, and then our talk won’t be right, we’ll be in the huddle and talking about things that completely don’t involve us finishing the game,” Webster said. “So for us it’s just maintaining the right talk and maintaining our focus to close teams out. Our focus wasn’t right and we let them get back in it, and we can’t allow that, especially playing Davis and going into the tournament. We gotta build leads … and it’s something we’ll definitely talk about this week and prepare for going into this final stretch.”

Ganot said acquiring that “take-no-prisoners” approach can develop over time.

“We’ve had more of a killer (instinct) recently, when we’re up five earlier in the year and then we try to go up 10, 15, whatever,” Ganot said. “But what does it come down to, it comes down to taking care of the ball, knocking down free throws, and getting some stops. We’ve done a pretty good job, and then we had two quick turnovers with about three minutes left, in a game where we’re in control, and quickly give up an extra possession and then we start to tighten up again, which we can’t do. So again we’re going to watch that, and learn from it. I’m glad we survived it, but certainly we’re using that moving forward if we’re ever in that situation again.”

HAWAI’I (10-8, 8-8 Big West) at UC DAVIS (8-6, 5-3 Big West)
Friday, March 5 (4:00 p.m. PT) and Saturday, March 6 (4:00 p.m. PT)
Where: The Pavilion, Davis, Calif.
TV: None
Video streaming: BigWest.tv
Radio: ESPN Honolulu (1420 AM / 92.7 FM)
Audio streaming: ESPNHonolulu.com or Sideline Hawaii App
Live stats: UCDavisLiveStats.com

Friday’s Games
Hawai’i at UC Davis, 4:00 p.m. PT
UC Riverside at CSUN, 4:00 p.m. PT
UC Irvine at Long Beach State, 4:00 p.m. PT
Cal State Fullerton at UC San Diego, 5:00 p.m. PT
Cal Poly at UC Santa Barbara, 5:00 p.m. PT

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

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