Long Beach State races past Warriors, 79-71

Hawai’i senior guard Juan Munoz scored 12 points, grabbed three rebounds and dished out two assists off the bench Thursday in the Warriors’ loss at Long Beach State. (Brandon Flores file photo)

Living and dying by the 3-point shot on offense, and mostly dying by poor effort on defense, the Hawai’i men’s basketball team suffered a crushing 79-71 defeat at Long Beach State on Thursday.

An official crowd of 1,835 in the Walter Pyramid watched Marcus Tsohonis return from injury to score a team-high 20 points with four assists and three rebounds and Jadon Jones add 19 points with four assists and four steals as The Beach improved to 12-7 overall and 4-3 in the Big West Conference. Justin McKoy scored a career-high 22 points and Juan Munoz contributed 12 points, three rebounds and two assists off the bench for the Warriors, who fell to 10-8, 2-4.

After McKoy drained a 3-pointer from beyond the top of the key to put UH ahead, 13-12, seven minutes into the game, AJ George quickly answered with a jumper from the left elbow to ignite a stunning 15-2 run capped by Aboubacar Traore’s leaner to put Long Beach State ahead, 27-15. The Warriors went 1-for-10 from the field during that stretch.

After Noel Coleman swished a 3-pointer from the right corner to cut it to 27-18 with 5:44 remaining in the first half, Chayce Polynice responded with a 3-pointer from beyond the top of the key just 14 seconds later to kickstart a 12-0 surge capped by Tsohonis’ floater in the open lane to push the lead to 39-18 with 2:49 left.

McKoy drained a long 3-pointer at the halftime horn to cut it to 45-28, but the halftime stats were telling:

The Beach shot an amazing 75 percent from the field, compared to just 32 percent for Hawai’i, which had only 6-for-22 accuracy (27.3 percent) from 3-point range. Long Beach State had 14 assists on 18 made baskets, and committed only one turnover.

“That’s as bad as we’ve defended,” Warriors coach Eran Ganot said in a postgame radio interview. “We’ve been good defensively every year, and half the time elite defensively. But they (The Beach) were very comfortable, we were on our heels, we let them get away with whatever they wanted after they made some tough shots in the first eight to 10 minutes. Our transition (defense) was unacceptable.

“When we have struggled shooting the ball, we’ve gone a little bit in our heads in terms of feeling sorry for ourselves and we don’t guard, we don’t get back on defense and we’re not organized. That can’t happen.”

Long Beach State stretched the lead to 71-49 on Isa Silva’s putback with nine minutes to play in the game, but Akira Jacobs responded with a 3-pointer to start UH on a 12-0 run capped by Munoz’s free throw to cut it to 71-61 with 5:29 remaining.

Coleman hit a jumper with 25 seconds left to close it to 79-71, but it was too little, too late and the Warriors let the time run out without fouling.

“In the second half, I think the defense stepped up, and I think sharing the ball was the biggest difference — we had 19 assists on 23 baskets,” Ganot said. “I don’t know if we took a bad shot in the entire second half. We just put ourselves in a pretty significant hole.”

Big West Standings

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

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