Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

UPDATED: Texas A&M-Commerce stuns Warriors, 53-51

NCAA Division I newcomer Texas A&M-Commerce was all business Wednesday night, using its surprising athleticism and suffocating on-ball defense to stun Hawai’i, 53-51, for a landmark non-conference road victory.

Photo courtesy Chris Kadooka

An anxious crowd of 2,176 in SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center watched Demarcus Demonia score 13 points and Khaliq Abdul-Mateen and C.J. Roberts each add 11 points to help the Lions even their record at 4-4 in their first season at the DI level. Noel Coleman tallied a game-high 18 points and Kamaka Hepa added 11 points for the Warriors, who fell to 5-2. 

TAMC broke an early 13-13 tie and finished the first half with a surprising 10-2 run to lead 23-15 at the break. The Lions then extended the lead to 37-23 on Abdul-Mateen’s 3-pointer from the left corner four minutes into the second half, before later holding off a UH rally that cut it to 47-42 on Bernardo da Silva’s free throw with 2:51 remaining.

That was as close as the Warriors would get until the final chaotic 3.9 seconds, when Samuta Avea sank a leaner from the left baseline to cut it to 53-48, followed by Coleman’s 3-pointer from the left corner to make it 53-51 with 1.8 seconds remaining after the Lions threw away the ensuing inbounds pass.

TAMC also threw away the next inbounds pass, allowing the Warriors one final possession with 1.8 ticks on the clock. But Hepa’s fadeaway 3-point attempt from beyond the top of the key failed to draw iron as time expired.

“Much respect to Commerce, credit them — they were great,” Hawai’i coach Eran Ganot said. “I know both teams weren’t happy with the shooting, but they were great in the most important part, and that was their competitiveness and their toughness. And that’s a heck of an identity to have. I’m disappointed — I think we out-competed them maybe in the last minute, but they totally out-competed us for 39, and that’s gotta start with me.” 

The Warriors struggled all night generating offensive production against the Lions’ tight on-ball defense, shooting just 21.7 percent (5 of 23) from the field in the first half, including a dismal 1 for 13 from 3-point range. Just as significantly, TAMC out-rebounded Hawai’i 26-14 in the first half, including eight to zero on the offensive glass.

Photo courtesy Chris Kadooka

“I think they did a good job of using their athleticism to their advantage,” Hepa said. “I think it’s partially that, and partially that we just didn’t come in with a certain swagger about ourselves and that starts with me as a captan of this team, so I have to do a better job of getting our guys ready to go for games like this. They’re a very athletic team, and we have to give a lot of credit to them, but we didn’t come out with the necessary pop that we needed to in order to make the plays that we wanted to.”

For the game, UH shot 32.7 percent from the field, including just 18.5 percent (5 for 27) from beyond the arc. The Lions won the rebounding tally, 43 to 31, including 13 to 4 on the offensive boards.

“You can talk about the rebounding — the rebounding was a byproduct of the effort, and the focus,” Ganot said. “When teams are not making shots, it comes down to 50/50 balls, and that was a massacre. From everybody, all five positions. Toughness was the deal today. They imposed their will early defensively, getting us out of sorts, and then we started to settle down. We got good shots, we missed good shots, I can live with that. (But) I can’t live with the effort where it was. We can’t let making shots dictate who we are. (We’re) a rebounding program, (but) you wouldn’t have known that tonight.”

Despite struggling and trailing for most of the game, for a moment it appeared the Warriors might have pulled off a crazy comeback victory. After Coleman’s 3-pointer closed it to 53-51 with two seconds left, TAMC threw an inbounds pass that went off a Lion who was tangled up with an official who was trying to get out of the way on the sideline in front of the Hawai’i bench. Warriors point guard JoVon McClanahan recovered the loose ball and swished a 3-pointer from the right wing as time expired, but a whistle had blown just as he released the shot.

Photo courtesy Matt Osumi

After a brief conference at the scorer’s table, the officials waved off the basket and ruled that it would instead be UH’s ball out of bounds with 1.8 seconds showing on the clock.

“It’s bang-bang, there’s so much going on … I gotta trust (the officials), I do trust them,” Ganot said. “The communication was that the ball hit the ref out of bounds, so he made the call. It’s unique to watch, because JoVon hits the shot, but that’s not the story of this game. I get an explanation, I respect the explanation, I’ll see it (on film), I expect it to be what the explanation was. That’s not the story of this game. The rebounding was the difference in the game, and our effort level and getting out-competed. Not the last play.

“Credit them (TAMC). They got us out of sorts, they’re a good team, they have some dynamic players, they’re defensive, and they spread you out more than most teams do … We gotta get better at our execution, going against that kind of defense again. We gotta rebound.” 

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