Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

UPDATED: Warriors rally past UC Davis, 74-66, in Big West opener

Knowing there would be no such thing as “easing into” league play this season, the University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team withstood its first stiff conference test Thursday night, rallying past UC Davis, 74-66, in a tense Big West opener for both teams.

An anxious and vocal crowd of 4,063 in SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center watched JoVon McClanahan score a career-high 23 points — all after halftime — and Bernardo da Silva and Justus Jackson each add 12 points as the Warriors overcame a five-point second-half deficit to improve to 10-3 overall. da Silva also grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked five shots as Hawai’i won its fifth consecutive game.

Christian Anigwe scored 21 points and Elijah Pepper added 16 points for the Aggies, who fell to 7-6.

UH led 25-23 after Jackson’s 3-pointer from the right wing at the halftime buzzer, but UC Davis went ahead, 37-32, on three free throws by Robby Beasley III seven minutes into the second half.

The Warriors then answered with a 12-5 run capped by McClanahan’s 3-pointer with 9:34 remaining, and they never trailed again after da Silva broke a 46-46 tie with two free throws at the eight-minute mark.

“Tough game, tough game,” UH coach Eran Ganot said. “I was very concerned about the quick turnaround (from Sunday afternoon’s Diamond Head Classic championship game) … But our guys were ready to go, they have been very professional in their approach. That doesn’t mean that it’s easy. It was a battle, and credit Davis. They have a great coaching staff who I’ve always had a lot of respect for. They hadn’t played for a week, and they’re a very prepared team.

“I’m really proud of our guys, especially finding something inside for the second half. We need everybody to get it done. The defense has been there for us, and it allowed us to withstand some tough offensive stretches.”

Many of those tough stretches came in the first half, when the Warriors committed 13 turnovers against the Aggies’ tight man-to-man defense featuring too-close-for-comfort on-ball pressure.

UC Davis jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first three and a half minutes before Kamaka Hepa finally got Hawai’i on the scoreboard with a 3-pointer from the left wing. After a Samuta Avea 3-pointer closed it to 9-8 just under seven minutes in, the teams mostly traded baskets the rest of the half, with neither leading by more than three points.

“In the first half, I guess I couldn’t find a rhythm,” said McClanahan, a junior point guard who is the reigning Big West Player of the Week. “I was fine mentally and I was seeing the game, but the refs called two early fouls and I couldn’t really do much. But Justus came in and did his job, so I’m just proud of him for that.”

Jackson, a sophomore, finished the first half with seven points, one assist and only one turnover in 13 and a half minutes off the bench.

“After the Diamond Head, I just had to stay ready and be ready to go, my time could be whenever,” said Jackson, who also played 13 minutes in the second half. “I tried to just focus on, when I do get in, bring a lot of energy.”

Ganot said especially with McClanahan and Hepa both saddled with two first-half fouls, the play of reserves Jackson, Beon Riley (11-plus minutes) and Mor Seck (three minutes) was crucial.

“I thought Justus was awesome, especially during key stretches,” Ganot said. “Mor gave us a huge lift with his presence. What a luxury to have, if you can have no dropoff. In these quick turnarounds, we need everybody.”

McClanahan opened the second half with a short turnaround jumper to put the Warriors ahead, 27-23, but the Aggies responded with a 9-1 run capped by Pepper’s reverse layup to push them back in front, 32-28, five minutes in.

Then after Avea tied it at 32-32 on a fast-break slam dunk, Pepper answered with a layup and Beasley sank all three of his free throws to extend the lead to 37-32.

But Jackson came right back with a driving layup followed by McClanahan’s pull-up jumper and Jackson’s 3-pointer to put UH back in front, 39-37, nine minutes in.

The Warriors eventually extended the lead to 64-54 on McClanahan’s free throw with 1:07 remaining, and then sank 10 more free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.

After committing 13 turnovers in the first half, the Warriors had just two in the second half. Led by da Silva’s five blocked shots, Hawai’i finished with 12 blocks – one short of the school record set in 2006.

Hawai’i returns to SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center at 5 p.m. Saturday for a New Year ‘s Eve conference game against Cal Poly (7-6).

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Thursday’s Results
UC Santa Barbara 66, at Cal State Fullerton 58
at UC Riverside 71, CSU Bakersfield 59
at Cal Poly 67, CSUN 57
UC San Diego 85, at Long Beach State 83 (OT)
at Hawai’i 74, UC Davis 66

Saturday’s Games
UC Irvine at CSU Bakersfield
UC Riverside at Long Beach State
CSUN at Cal State Fullerton
UC San Diego at UC Santa Barbara
Cal Poly at Hawai’i

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