Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

UPDATED: Warriors surge past Long Beach State, 79-70

As usual, it certainly was no day at the Beach, but Noel Coleman scored a season-high 25 points and Samuta Avea added 17 points Saturday night to help Hawai’i hold off visiting Long Beach State, 79-70, in frantic Big West Conference men’s basketball action.

A vocal, pumped-up crowd of 4,198 in SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center watched JoVon McClanahan add 15 points and Kamaka Hepa contribute 11 points and 14 rebounds as the Warriors improved to 13-4 overall and 4-1 in league play. Hawai’i, which has won eight of its last nine games, is now tied for third place the BWC, behind only UC Irvine (5-0) and UC Riverside (5-1).

Tone Hunter scored 18 points and Aboubacar Traore added 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Beach, who fell to 8-10 overall and dropped to seventh in the BWC at 2-4.

UH trailed 51-47 after Amari Stroud’s putback with 9:13 remaining, but Avea swished a 3-pointer from the left corner to ignite a 10-2 run capped by Bernardo da Silva’s jumper which gave the Warriors a 57-53 lead with 6:55 left. Long Beach State closed it to 69-68 on Marcus Tsohonis’ fadeaway jumper with 2:24 remaining, but that was as close as the Beach would get as Hawai’i finished the game with a 10-2 run.

“It was a battle tonight, a very intense battle,” Warriors coach Eran Ganot said. “Buckle up, because I think all these games are like that. That’s how this conference is this year. This is going to be a very physical league, and our guys had to weather the storm … I want to thank our fans, they were awesome, they were incredible. Our guys appreciate it, I think they deserve it, I think our fans deserve it. The fans and our guys are giving everything they’ve got for us to try to get this thing done, and that synergy has been awesome.”

Long Beach State used an early 10-2 run to go ahead, 14-6, but UH responded with an 18-8 surge to take the lead back at 24-22 on Hepa’s layup with 3:19 left in the half. The Beacg briefly grabbed the lead back at 27-26 with just under a minute to play, but the Warriors closed out the half with layups from Hepa and da Silva to take a 30-27 edge into the locker room.

Photo courtesy Chris Kadooka

Hawai’i led despite shooting just 27 percent (10 for 37) from the field, helped by a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line.

The Warriors pushed the lead to 43-38 after McClanahan’s 3-pointer from the left wing five minutes into the second half, but Long Beach State came alive with a 13-4 run capped by Stroud’s putback at the 9:13 mark, which put the 49ers back in front, 51-47. Things had already gotten worse when Hepa was called for a charge — his fourth foul — midway through the second half.

But instead of collapsing, UH got stronger and promptly grabbed the lead back.

“I think we have a great team, and we have a ‘next-man-up’ mentality,” said Coleman, a junior shooting guard. “So if one of our starters, or whoever gets in foul trouble, we know the next man up is going to be mentally ready.”

Hawai’i played without reserve point guard Justus Jackson, who sat out with a knee injury. The Warriors’ starting five accounted for 77 of the 79 points. Freshman center Mor Seck’s two free throws represented the only bench points for Hawai’i.

After Long Beach State closed it to 69-68, Coleman swished a 3-pointer from the right wing with 1:27 remaining, and then later made a short banker with 40 seconds left to push the lead to 75-70. McClanahan then scored on a layup and Hepa drained two free throws with 18.5 seconds on the clock to seal the victory.

“Credit to (the 49ers), they brought it,” Avea said. “But I’m glad we got the job done.”

Coleman’s best scoring output of the season included 11-of-11 shooting from the free-throw line. The Hawai’i program record for free-throw shooting in a single game is 13 for 13 by Victor Kelly in 1974.

The Beach entered the game ranked sixth in NCAA Division I with 40.7 rebounds per game, but Hawai’i won the rebounding battle, 48-39. In addition to Hepa’s 14 boards, da Silva tied his career high with 12 rebounds for the Warriors.

The Beach played without star guard Joel Murray, who sat out with a wrist injury. He leads the team with 15.7 points per game, and was a first team All-Big West selection last season. Also, 6-10 sophomore center Lassina Traore was limited to four points and three rebounds in 14 minutes before fouling out. He entered the game averaging 11.1 points and a league-best 9.4 rebounds per game.

The Beach also arrived in Honolulu around 3:00 a.m. on Saturday morning due to travel issues.

The Warriors will remain at home for another BWC game on Monday against CSUN. That game is scheduled to start at 5:00 p.m. on the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday.

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Saturday’s Results
UC Irvine 71, at CSUN 57
at CSU Bakersfield 56, UC San Diego 52
at UC Davis 83, Cal State Fullerton 79
UC Riverside 65, at UC Santa Barbara 64
at Hawai’i 79, Long Beach State 70

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