Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Warriors hoping third time is charm vs. Cal State Fullerton 

LAS VEGAS — They say it’s tough to beat a team three times, which may be true. But for the University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team this season, it was hard enough trying to beat Cal State Fullerton even once.

The Warriors (22-10) will face the Titans (18-12) for the third time at 12:30 p.m. Hawai’i time in the Hercules Tires Big West Conference quarterfinals in the Dollar Loan Center Arena in Henderson, Nev., about a 20-minute drive from the Las Vegas Strip.

The game will be broadcast live via radio by ESPN Honolulu 1420AM and streamed live on ESPN+, for those who have subscriptions.

The teams’ first meeting in Fullerton was tied at 60-60 after regulation play, before the Titans won, 79-72, in overtime. In the rematch Feb. 11 at the Stan Sheriff Center, UH almost overcame an 18-point second-half deficit but ultimately fell just short, 52-51.

“I’m actually happy that we (are playing) Fullerton, so we can get our get-back,” said junior point guard JoVon McClanahan. “I think that sets us up really well, it gives us even more motivation, knowing that they got the better of us in the regular season. But now all the marbles are on the line. I think we’re ready.”

McClanahan earned All-Big West Second Team honors on Monday after averaging 13.5 points and 4.0 assists in 20 league outings. But he said the Warriors actually have several veteran leaders who bring valuable experience to the table on Thursday.

“We have older guys who have been in this conference tournament before and been through these type of battles,” McClanahan said. “It’s not just me leading, it’s for sure Kamaka (Hepa) and for sure Samuta (Avea) and Bernardo (da Silva) and Noel, who have been here and been through those types of games. I’m just trying to let everybody know that it’s a mental thing, we have to be mentally tough in order to push through and break through, because I think that is the biggest battle within teams — is being mentally tough and willing to go and win.”

Hepa and Coleman each received Honorable Mention on the All-Big West selections, and Coleman broke out of a mini scoring slump by racking up 15 points in the regular season finale last Saturday at UC Santa Barbara. But  Hawai’i coach Eran Ganot pointed out that Coleman’s contributions have not been limited to just scoring.

“I think we have great appreciation for Noel in our program,” Ganot said. “I think people are keying in on him, and he’s done a lot of things that don’t show up in the box score — spreading the floor. He’s one of the heavy minutes guys in the league, we’ve had guys out, and here’s Noel, who hasn’t missed a beat and hasn’t missed a game.”

On the Fullerton side, the Titans feature several strong guards including Latrell Wrightsell, Jr., who was named First Team All-Big West after finishing fifth in league scoring at 16.3 points per game, and Tory San Antonio, who was named Big West Best Defensive Player and also contributes 7.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per outing.

“We can’t let him get comfortable,” McClanahan said of Wrightsell.

As for the Warriors, they feel very comfortable at the Dollar Loan Center Arena, having just played UNLV there this past Dec. 7 and experiencing two games in the brand new facility in last year’s conference tournament. As usual, a large group of Hawai’i fans are expected to attend, as well as the Warrior band, cheerleaders and Rainbow Dancers.

 “(It’s) beautiful, honestly I love playing there,” McClanahan said. “It’s a great environment, and I think it was really good for us to go up there and play UNLV, because it was really like a playoff game with the atmosphere and things like that. So I think it will be in our favor, especially seeing all the green and white in the stands. We’ll be ready.”

HAWAI’I (22-10 overall, 13-7 Big West) vs. CAL STATE FULLERTON (18-12 overall, 12-6 Big West)
Thursday, March 9, 2:30 p.m. Pacific Time (12:30 p.m. Hawai’i)
Where: Dollar Loan Center, Henderson, Nev.
TV/Streaming video: ESPN+
Radio: ESPN Honolulu (92.7 FM, 1420 AM, espnhonolulu.com, Sideline Hawaii app)

Big West Conference Tournament
Tuesday’s First Round

No. 8 CSU Bakersfield 51, No. 9 CSUN 47
No. 10 Cal Poly 88, Long Beach State 68

Thursday’s Quarterfinals (all times Pacific)
No. 1 UC Irvine vs. No. 8 CSU Bakersfield, 12:00 p.m.
No. 4 Cal State Fullerton vs. No. 5 Hawai’i, 2:30 p.m.
No. 2 UC Santa Barbara vs. No. 10 Cal Poly, 6:00 p.m.
No. 3 UC Riverside vs. No. 6 UC Davis, 8:30 p.m.

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