Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

UPDATED: Warriors hang on to beat CSU Bakersfield, 72-69

In another tale of two halves, this time the University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team came out on top. Barely.

Photo courtesy Chris Kadooka

Kamaka Hepa and JoVon McClanahan each scored 17 points Saturday night to help the Rainbow Warriors hold off CSU Bakersfield, 72-69, in more challenging Big West Conference action.

A crowd of 4,417 in SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center watched Noel Coleman add 11 points as UH improved to 16-6 overall and 7-3 in the Big West, good for sole possession of fourth place. Antavion Collum scored 23 points and Cameron Smith added 18 points to lead the Roadrunners, who fell to 6-15, 2-8.

UH jumped out to an 11-0 lead and was ahead, 45-28, at halftime after shooting 60 percent (15 of 25) from the field, including a torrid 53.8 percent (7 of 13) from 3-point range. The Warriors out-rebounded Cal State Bakersfield, 16-8, in the first half.

But in the second half, the Roadrunners used a 16-2 run to cut it to 54-50 with over six minutes remaining, and Hawai’i struggled to put the game away for good until Coleman sank a free throw to make it 72-66 with three seconds left. But fittingly, Collum swished a 30-footer just before the final horn to make the final score 72-69.

The game was hauntingly almost the exact reverse of the Warriors’ 65-64 loss to UC Santa Barbara, in which UH trailed 33-24 at halftime but rallied in the second half to take the lead until Ajay Mitchell sank a game-winning shot with 1.9 seconds remaining.

“Great first half, awful second half — the other day it was great second half, awful first half,” Warriors coach Eran Ganot said. “(I’m) pleased with the win, we’re not going to give them back. Really great response — championship response — for our guys in the first half, all three phases. (But) really disappointed in the second half. And that’s an area we have to grow, to do what we want. Start with me, to get our guys ready to push through.” 

The Warriors led, 52-34, after Hepa’s free throw with 16:13 remaining in the game, but Collum answered with a three-point play at the 16-minute mark to ignite a 16-2 run capped by Smith’s layup to cut it to 54-50 with 6:17 left. 

“The main takeaway from that is that we just gotta put 40 minutes together,” Hepa said. “We’re good in spurts, and we have good halves, but I feel like we have yet to put together a full 40-minute game where we’re at our best.”

That is as close as the Roadrunners would get until the final second, as Beon Riley converted a three-point play to start a 7-2 run culminating in Bernardo da Silva’s layup to stretch the lead to 61-52 with 4:06 remaining.

Hawai’i then kept Bakersfield at arm’s length — with leads of five, six or seven points — until Collum drained his 30-foot shot just before the final horn. 

After that, the general feeling amongst the fans and the Warriors was one of survival rather than triumph.

“We just talked about it as a team, it’s just not acceptable,” McClanahan said. “There were games this season where we could have just stomped on teams and just run them out of the gym and beat ’em by 15. But it looks like we just like to play in these (close) games. We talked about it and we’re going to be better, and I’m expecting us to move forward and close teams out. It just is what it is at the moment, we got the win, but we’re going to be better. I know we’re going to be better.”

In the second half, UH shot just 31.6 percent (6 for 19) from the field, including a stunning 0-for-11 from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, the Roadrunners shot 52 percent (13 of 25) from the field, including 7 of 13 (53.8 percent) from 3-point range. The two teams were tied in rebounding, at 14 apiece.

“Give Bakersfield credit,” Ganot said. “They fought to the end, they fought to the buzzer. They set the tone in the second half with their hustle plays, and our lackadaisical play, and we were exposed. When I said we had this kind of situation against Northridge (on Jan. 16) … we were exposed in the second half. We weren’t mature enough, weren’t consistent enough. You don’t want to learn the hard way, but that is the hard way. 

“And it did happen again. So we didn’t learn from that, that’s my disappointment. We’re too good a group, too good a team, and too high in character to do that.”

Samuta Avea hit two 3-pointers in the first two minutes of the game for the Warriors, but he did not score after that, in part due to foul problems. Bernardo da Silva contributed eight points on 4-of-5 shooting, but grabbed just one rebound for Hawai’i. He entered the game leading the Warriors with 7.3 rebounds per game. Coleman went 6 for 9 on free throws, and had a streak of consecutive made free throws snapped at 28.

UC Santa Barbara, which did not play on Saturday, remains alone atop the BWC at 8-1. UC Riverside (8-2) and UC Irvine (7-2) both won on Saturday to stay in front of Hawai’i.

The second round of Big West regular-season games begins next week. The Warriors will be on the road for games at UC Davis on Thursday, then at Cal Poly on Saturday.

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Big West Conference
Saturday’s Results

at UC Irvine 81, CSUN 56
at Long Beach State 75, UC Davis 72
at UC Riverside 72, UC San Diego 65
Cal State Fullerton 65, at Cal Poly 36
at Hawai’i 72, CSU Bakersfield 69

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