Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

UPDATED: Warriors rally past UC San Diego

Owing another victory to its better half, Hawai’i rallied past visiting UC San Diego, 69-62, Thursday night in more exciting and intriguing Big West Conference men’s basketball action. 

Photo courtesy Chris Kadooka

A late-awakening but ultimately vocal crowd of 3,030 in  SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center watched Noel Coleman score 19 points and Samuta Avea add 17 points as the Warriors improved to 18-7 overall and 9-4 in league play. Francis Nwaokorie scored a game-high 25 points and Jake Kosakowski added 12 points for the Tritons, who fell to 8-17 and 3-10.

UC San Diego jumped out to a stunning 17-5 lead in the first six minutes, before Coleman hit a 3 to ignite a 16-7 run capped by Kody Williams’ 3-pointer from the left wing to close it to 24-21 with six minutes remaining. The Tritons held the lead, however, and were up, 35-29 at the half.

It was only after UH put together a 15-0 run early in the second half that the Warriors finally took the lead, and UC San Diego got as close as 60-58 on Jace Roquemore’s 3-pointer with two minutes left. But Avea drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key 25 seconds later, and the Tritons could not get closer than five points after that.   

“Great win for our guys, these are hard to get,” Warriors coach Eran Ganot said. “We’ve been talking over the years how much respect we have for that program and that staff and their guys. We’ve done really well against them because of that focus. Today was probably about as bad as we’ve guarded them. Give them credit, (but) I thought our defense after that start — especially in the first 12 or 13 minutes of the second half — was incredible, awesome, more like us. And make no mistake, while the offense is coming, we are a gritty defense, rebounding, 50/50 ball team. 

“They got us on every which way in the first half … We collapsed a bit late there, because we’re a team that really defends the 3 and they went 3-3-3-3, so there was a stretch where we felt like we were trading three’s for two’s. I’m glad we settled down and got some key stops late, and credit to our guys, we’ve been really good at this: Late in games, you gotta be able to handle the press, take care of it, make free throws and they didn’t turn it over and made every one.”

Photo courtesy Chris Kadooka

In the first half, UCSD shot 50 percent (14 of 28) from the field, including 36.4 percent (4 of 11) from 3-point range. The Tritons also out-rebounded Hawai’i, 16 to 13, outscored the Warriors in the paint, 20-12, and scored seven points on fast breaks compared to zero for UH.

“I think it was just our energy in general, the first half was a little soft,” Coleman said. “We came out of the locker room during halftime with the mindset of having ultimate energy (in the second half), and I think we did that.”

Nwaokorie, a 6-foot-7 power forward, had 18 points in the first 20 minutes, including two 3-pointers.

“He is a tough cover, and he’s been playing well and he’s playing with a lot of momentum coming in,” Ganot said. “I mean, Irvine is great defensively, and he did the same thing to them.”

After Nwaokorie hit a 3-pointer two minutes into the second half to put UCSD ahead, 38-32, Bernardo da Silva scored on a putback to start the Warriors on their 15-0 run capped by da Silva’s layup to push Hawai’i ahead, 47-38, with just under 10 minutes to play.

But the Tritons were not quite done just yet, chipping away and eventually closing to 60-58, before Avea calmly swished his 3 from beyond the top of the arc with 1:35 remaining. And after Roddie Anderson II scored on a layup to cut it to 67-62 with 22.9 seconds left, Coleman effectively sealed the game by sinking two free throws seven seconds later.

Avea, who scored 13 of his 17 points after halftime, said the Warriors’ familiar tale of two halves was one of aggression.

Photo courtesy Brandon Flores

“I think it’s just aggression, coming out as soon as tipoff happens and being ready to go,” Avea said. “That’s a big focus for us, and like we mentioned, they got out early, but I think that’s just one of the things that if we improve on, we’ll put together a more complete game next time around.”

Hawai’i played without top reserve Beon Riley, who sat out with a leg injury. Back-up point guard Justus Jackson also did not play due to injury.

Williams and Harry Rouhliadeff filled those reserve roles well on Thursday. Williams, a freshman walk-on, scored six points, including a driving layup that gave Hawai’i its first lead of the game at 39-38 with 12:46 remaining in the second half. Rouhliadeff, a freshman forward, scored eight points in 20 minutes of action.

Hawai’i, which now has a career record of 6-0 against UCSD, is tied for third place with UC Riverside in the Big West standings. UC Santa Barbara (10-2) is in first place, and UC Irvine (9-3) is in second.

The Warriors will remain at home for a Big West game against Cal State Fullerton on Saturday.

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Big West Conference
Thursday’s Results

at UC Riverside 72, UC Davis 65
at UC Irvine 55, Cal Poly 54
at CSU Bakersfield 73, CSUN 58
UC Santa Barbara 75, Long Beach State 72
at Hawai’i 69, UC San Diego 62

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