Warriors take positivity to Long Beach State

Hawai’i senior guard Noel Coleman broke out of a 60-minute plus scoreless drought by pouring in 10 second-half points against UC Riverside last Saturday, and finished with eight rebounds. (Chris Kadooka photo)

Thanks to last Saturday’s skid-busting 63-56 victory over UC Riverside, the University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team heads into Thursday’s road game at Long Beach State with more exclamation points than question marks.

The crucial Big West Conference matchup is set for 5 p.m. Hawai’i time and will be televised live via Spectrum SportsNet Channel 218, live streamed on SpectrumSportsNet.com and broadcast live via radio on ESPN Honolulu 1420AM.

The question marks were abundant entering last Saturday’s contest in SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff center, where the Warriors (10-7 overall, 2-3 Big West) had lost four straight home games. But UH erased many of those Q’s with these A’s:

Free throw woes? Gone, after sinking 18 of 21 (85.7 percent)

Outside shooting? Better, five makes from 3-point range, out of 17 attempts (29.4 percent)

Noel Coleman’s 60-minute-plus scoring drought? Gone, after he scored 10 points in the second half.

Coleman, UH’s leading scorer averaging 13.4 points per game, was scoreless after going 0-for-6 in a home loss to UC Irvine on Jan. 11 and got shut out in the first half last Saturday. But he said that slump is hopefully behind him, thanks to slight mechanical adjustments.

“I looked back and one thing I could do better is be ‘shot-ready,’ ” Coleman said. “Basketball is a game of runs, there’s going to be ups and downs, highs and lows, so we were in a low point but it’s only up from here.”

Long Beach State (11-7, 3-3) is coming off an 85-76 loss at UC Santa Barbara, but does own an 81-71 victory at Cal State Fullerton, which scored a 63-61 overtime road win over the Warriors on Dec. 30.

At UCSB, Messiah Thompson scored a team-high 23 points with four assists and three steals, Aboucar Traore added 18 points, 10 assists and nine boards and AJ George contributed 12 points and four assists. Jadon Jones chipped in with 10 points, four rebounds and three assists, and Lassina Traore finished with nine points and six boards.

As a team, The Beach made 12 of 24 attempts from 3-point range.

“Long Beach is one of the biggest teams, and they have two guys (Lassina Traore and Aboubacar Traore) averaging (over 7 per game) in rebounding,” Hawai’i coach Eran Ganot said. “They have a different dynamic, mixing up defenses and some things we’ve seen, and some that we haven’t. It’s a great challenge, but we’re looking forward to confronting that challenge, and doing it on the road.”

Perhaps the biggest question the Warriors answered last Saturday was whether they could finish strong in a close game and secure the victory.

“It’s just a good feeling to be back on the winning side,” Coleman said. “It’s really just (about) staying together, stay competing … I think (the victory) definitely gave us a little confidence boost, hopefully a little momentum to go into these away games. They’re going to be big games for us. It definitely pushed us in the right direction.”

Big West Standings

  1. UC Irvine (5-0)
  2. UC San Diego (5-0)
  3. UC Davis (5-1)
  4. Cal State Northridge (4-1)
  5. UC Santa Barbara (3-3)
  6. Long Beach State (3-3)
  7. HAWAI’I (2-3)
  8. UC Riverside (2-4)
  9. Cal State Fullerton (1-4)
  10. Cal State Bakersfield (0-5)
  11. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (0-6)

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