Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

UPDATED: Warriors stymie Cal Poly, 57-48, on New Year’s Eve

Ending 2022 with one last victory – in a string of six straight – the University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team set off the New Year’s Eve celebration early Saturday night by denying stubborn visiting Cal Poly, 57-48, in more dramatic Big West Conference action.

A festive and vocal crowd of 2,195 in SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center watched Kamaka Hepa, JoVon McClanahan and Noel Coleman each score 12 points as the Warriors jumped out to a stunning 16-0 lead and then held off the Mustangs to improve to 11-3 overall and 2-0 in the Big West, tied with UC Riverside and UC Santa Barbara for the early lead in the standings. Alimamy Koroma and Trevon Taylor eached scored 10 points to lead Cal Poly, which fell to 7-7 and 1-1.

The Mustangs missed their first 11 field goals to open the game and did not score until Nick Fleming’s mid-range jumper with 12:48 remaining in the first half, but they made nine of their next 13 attempts to close it to 27-22 at halftime.

UH then opened the half with an 11-6 run and led 38-28 on McClanahan’s reverse layup eight minutes in, then went up 45-34 on Beon Riley’s baseline jumper with 9:12 left in the game. But Fleming answered with a rare four-point play to ignite a 14-3 run to help Cal Poly close it to 52-48 after Brantly Stevenson’s layup with 2:14 left.

The Warriors then sank five free throws and held the Mustangs scoreless down the stretch to seal the victory.

“Very pleased with the win … I thought our guys came out really ready to go on both ends,” Hawai’i coach Eran Ganot said. “You can see when we can separate from teams, when we do it on both ends. Give (Cal Poly) credit — we said coming in, this is a team we’ve had a lot of battles with, their young guys are a year older so they’re more veteran and they’re better. They continue to have that competitiveness and grit.”

While the Mustangs struggled to find their shooting touch early, the Warriors built much of the 16-0 lead from the free throw line, making seven of eight attempts from the charity stripe in the first six minutes. But then Cal Poly clamped down on defense, holding UH without a field goal for almost a six-minute stretch while cutting the deficit in half to 20-12 on Bryan Penn-Johnson’s slam dunk with 5:33 to go in the half.

“I think it had more so to do with our approach, and how we kind of moved after having that lead,” Hepa said. “I think a lot of that was the ball just wasn’t moving as much as it had been in that first six or seven-minute stretch of the game. So that had a lot to do with it. And then defensively, we kind of let up a little bit as well, and I think that’s where they were able to make their run going into the second half. When we were able to build that lead, I think the next step we can take as a team is being mature enough to play our brand of basketball.”

Just when the Warriors appeared to get some comfortable separation midway through the second half, the Mustangs came right back and made it a tight game again.

“I thought in the second half, we shared the ball more,” Ganot said. “Maybe the shots didn’t go in, but we were sharing it more, which wears teams down, and that’s what we have to do while we continue to guard. We rebounded, and then we did a good job getting to the line and converting. Especially (against) the press, we handled it well; free throws late, handled it well, 80 percent (24 of 30 overall) … that’s winning in different ways,  when the shot doesn’t fall. I’m really pleased with our guys’ continued hallmark defense. (But) there’s still work for us to do.”

Free throws were a big difference, with the Warriors out-scoring the Mustangs 24-7 from the free-throw line.

Hawai’i had one of its worst shooting performances of this season, converting just 1 of 11 from 3-point range, and shooting 37.2 percent (16 for 43) from the field overall. However, the Warriors also had one of their best defensive performances of this season, limiting Cal Poly to 1 of 10 shooting from 3-point range. It was also the the first time this season that Hawai’i held an opponent below 50 points.

Photo courtesy Chris Kadooka

And not much time to celebrate, as the next conference game is on the road at UC San Diego on Thursday.

“I think we’re happy with how we finished 2022, but we also know that we have a lot of work to do, especially on the offensive end,” Hepa said. “That’s gonna kind of be at the front of our minds moving into the rest of conference play.” 

The Warriors will be on the road next week for conference games at UC San Diego on January 5, then at Cal State Fullerton on January 7.

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Big West Conference
Saturday’s Results
UC Irvine 79, at CSU Bakersfield 75
UC Riverside 73, at Long Beach State 72
at Cal State Fullerton 64, CSUN 52
at UC Santa Barbara 82, UC San Diego 61
at Hawai’i 57, Cal Poly 48

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