TCU proves too tough for Warriors, 65-51

Hawai’i guard Juan Munoz scored nine points off the bench Sunday but the Warriors could not overcome 19 turnovers and 34 points allowed in the paint against TCU in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic third-place game. (Brandon Flores photo)

The University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team learned Sunday afternoon that it can’t get what it wishes for every Christmas. TCU was the holiday spoiler this year, defeating the Rainbow Warriors, 65-51, for third place on the final day of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.

A Christmas Eve crowd of 2,608 in SimpiFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center watched the Warriors commit 19 turnovers and allow 34 points in the paint in dropping to 8-4 after their third loss in four games. A year ago, Hawai’i stunned Southern Methodist on JoVon McClanahan’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer to win its first Diamond Head Classic title.

TCU, coached by former UH assistant Jamie Dixon, improved to 10-2. Dixon served two stints under former Hawai’i coach Riley Wallace, who was sitting at courtside for the game.

Current Warriors coach Eran Ganot lamented his team’s miscues, as Hawai’i established new season-lows for points, field goal percentage (.333) and field goals made (19). The 19 turnovers are a season high, and the team’s eight assists marks a season low.

“I thought we had some good looks in the first half,” Ganot said. “The finishing around the rim was disappointing. Unfortunately, that bled into the second half. We had to continue to stay aggressive, but in the second half, (TCU’s) defense ramped up and we couldn’t get into the cracks.”

Noel Coleman scored 19 points and was the only Warrior to reach double-figure points. Juan Munoz added nine points on three 3-pointers, and JoVon McClanahan added six points and five rebounds before exiting the game early in the second half with an undisclosed injury.

“Obviously, our goal was to come in here and repeat as champions, but I don’t think we deserved it,” Munoz said. “I don’t think we played with the same fight, the same grit, that we had last year. But we’re for sure going to get that back.”

UH had a 10-9 lead early in the game, and a 3-pointer by Munoz tied the score at 13-all with 11:28 remaining in the first half. But it was all Horned Frogs after that.

JaKobe Coles’ putback gave TCU a 31-20 lead with 3:00 left in the first half. Coleman drained a 3-pointer just before the game horn sounded to get Hawai’i within nine, 36-27, at intermission.

That was as close as it would get, as the Warriors shot 29.6 percent (8 for 27) from the field in the second half. McClanahan, who was the Most Outstanding Player of the 2022 Diamond Head Classic, was limited to 3:39 of playing time in the second half.

“Him being out, you miss his ball-handling and you miss his leadership,” Ganot said “That’s where we have to evolve. It can’t be all on JoVon to bring the spirit and fight. Other guys have to do it, and we became a pretty quiet team.”

A driving layup by Hawai’i reserve guard Ryan Rapp cut the TCU lead to 57-48 with 4:59 remaining, but the Horned Frogs responded with an 8-0 surge to secure the victory.

“We were really passive,” Ganot said. “We didn’t have many post catches today. (TCU) did a great job switching, at times switching everything. They did a good job trapping some of those ball screens, and we were on our heels. We didn’t play with a lot of passion and physicality and toughness during that stretch. That’s probably the most disappointing.”

Munoz added: “We can go back and look at the film and see what we didn’t do well today. It’s going to be a tough one to look at, but I think that it’s needed. That’s what we need to grow as a team and develop as a team that we know we can be. For sure, this film is going to be helpful for us.”

Jameer Nelson Jr. led a balanced TCU offense with 13 points, including 6-of-6 free throw shooting.

Up next for Hawai’i is the start of the Big West Conference regular season. The Warriors open conference action on Saturday, playing host to Cal State Fullerton at 7 p.m.

2023 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic

Championship: Nevada 72, Georgia Tech 64
Third Place: TCU 65, Hawai’i 51
Fifth Place: UMass 87, Old Dominion 65
Seventh Place: Temple 55, Portland 54

All-Tournament Team

Josh Cohen, UMass
Emmanuel Miller, TCU
Baye Ndongo, Georgia Tech
Keenan Blackshear, Nevada
Most Outstanding Player: Jerod Lucas, Nevada

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