Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

UPDATED: Warriors’ rally comes up short against Cal State Fullerton, 52-51

This time for the Hawai’i men’s basketball team, Mr. Hyde was just a tad more bad than Dr. Jekyll was good, and that slightest of differences cost the Warriors dearly in a thrilling but heartbreaking 52-51 defeat to visiting Cal State Fullerton on Saturday night.

Photo courtesy Chris Kadooka

A super vocal crowd of 3,997 in SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center watched the Warriors almost overcome an 18-point second-half deficit to cut it to one point and have three potential game-winning shot attempts fall short in the final seconds as they fell to 18-8 overall and 9-5 in Big West Conference play. Kamaka Hepa led UH with 16 points, and Samuta Avea added 12 points and a career-high 17 rebounds. Max Jones scored 13 points and Latrell Wrightsell added 11 points for the Titans, who improved to 14-12 and 8-6. 

Cal State Fullerton led, 37-19, after Jones’ 3-pointer three minutes into the second half, but the Warriors chipped away and went on a 25-10 run to close it to 47-44 on Avea’s 3-pointer from beyond the top of the key with 5:08 left.

The Titans later stretched the lead to 52-44 with three minutes to go, but Coleman swished a 3 from the right corner 51 seconds later and then Avea made a driving baseline layup to cut it to 52-49 with 40 ticks on the clock. After a Titans miss on the other end, JoVon McClanahan then sank two free throws with 21.7 seconds remaining to close it to 52-51. 

Wrightsell was then fouled a second later but missed the front end of a 1-and-1, and Hawai’i regained possession and called timeout at halfcourt with 16 seconds left. McClanahan drove down the middle of the lane and missed a short fadeaway, Hepa missed a tip-in, Avea grabbed the rebound but then was just short on a baseline fadeaway as the horn sounded after the rebound by the Titans.

Photo courtesy Brandon Flores

“Credit Fullerton, they came in here and got a big win,” Warriors coach Eran Ganot said. “(I) respect their fight and their defense today. I’m really proud of our guys’ fight in a certain group that was in during that (comeback) stretch. (I’m) just really disappointed in our lack of execution when some shots don’t fall, and our desire at times to do it ourselves with some guys … Last play of the game, we wanted to go early enough where we get second-chance opportunities and we had two, one right under the rim. 

“But then you look at what happened in the entirety of the game … we did so poorly in the first half. That’s disappointing. I hope we can grow from that, I gotta do better with that, I’ll continue to address it. And eventually we’ll break through. And that’s the difference between being good and great.”  

Cal State Fullerton led, 30-15, at halftime after making 13 of 15 free throws and making only four turnovers compared to 11 by Hawai’i. The Warriors led 6-0, but finished the half shooting just 16.7 percent (4 of 24) from the field, including 2 for 10 from 3-point range.

“I just didn’t think that we came out with the level of intensity that we needed to,” Hepa said. “I think it was like a combination of us being stagnant on offense, not really moving the ball, giving the ball energy, flying it around. And then also just not being disciplined with guarding without fouling. They shot 15 free throws in the first half, four in the second. So I think that’s a big part of it. In combination with the offense not not being aggressive, we were kind of attacking to pass, and just being passive.”

In the second half, UH made 6 of 14 attempts (42.9 percent) from beyond the arc and committed only three turnovers. The Warriors also scored 11 second-half points off fast breaks, which produced zero points in the first.

Photo courtesy Chris Kadooka

“We say it all the time, how good we are when we run and we play fast,” Avea said. “But if we don’t get stops and don’t box out, we’re not going to be able to run.”

In the meantime, Ganot and his staff are again saddled with solving his team’s strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

“I think our teams have always been fighters who fight back,” Ganot said. “But we’ve probably never had this kind of 180. Everybody has these situations over the course of the year, but the up-10/down-10 is as probably as much as we’ve had. The game honors toughness, and it honors discipline, and we get undisciplined in key situations that create a flurry (for opposing teams).

“We’ll keep coaching, we’ll keep working, I believe in our guys. And that’s why I’m not surprised they came back. Their intentions are good, I love our guys, they’re awesome, they have great character. But we gotta do a good job (in practice) this week. We’ll watch (film) and get back to work.”

The Warriors played their second consecutive game without top reserve Beon Riley. The sophomore forward was in uniform, but his left knee was heavily taped.

Hawai’i is now in a three-way tie for third place in the Big West standings with Long Beach State and UC Riverside with six games remaining in the regular season.

The Warriors will return to the road for its next two Big West games – at Long Beach State on February 18, then at CSU Bakersfield on February 20. The next home game is on February 23 against UC Riverside, followed by the “Senior NIght” home finale against UC Irvine on February 25.

CLICK HERE to view boxscore

CLICK HERE to view more photos

Big West Conference
Saturday’s Results

at CSUN 64, Cal Poly 53
Long Beach State 79, at CSU Bakersfield 69
at UC Irvine 83, UC Riverside 64
at UC Santa Barbara 84, UC Davis 74
Cal State Fullerton 52, at Hawai’i 51


  1. No bolo for comments

  2. The header says 2021-22 roster but when you click on the link it does link to the current roster. Will you get access to the players for WI only content again? That was the cool thing about this site. Now it seems like it’s the same interviews that all media guys get, no “insider” status like the Gib days.

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