Warriors facing tough test at UC San Diego

Hawai’i center Bernardo da Silva scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds in Thursday night’s 79-71 loss at Long Beach State. (Brandon Flores file photo)

In just a couple years, UC San Diego has gone from being the “new kid” on the Big West Conference men’s basketball block to challenging for the title of neighborhood bully.

That surprisingly quick rise is not good news for Hawai’i, which visits the Tritons on Saturday for another crucial league game, set for 2 p.m. (HST) in La Jolla, Calif. The contest will be livestreamed on ESPN+ and broadcast live via radio on ESPN Honolulu 1420AM.

Both teams are coming off Thursday losses, with the Warriors (10-8 overall, 2-4 Big West) falling at Long Beach State, 79-71, and UCSD (11-7, 5-1) suffering its first conference defeat, 76-65, at UC Irvine. The Tritons are only in their fourth year in NCAA Division I, having joined the Big West in 2020 after being a DII program since their inception in 1965.

Forward Francis Nwaokorie led UCSD with 17 points and seven rebounds, guard Tyler McGhie added 12 points and three boards, and guard Hayden Gray contributed 11 points and six rebounds.

But even before Thursday’s loss, UH coach Eran Ganot said the Warriors’ preparation process prioritizes internal challenges over external.

“Human nature is tough, you’re always fighting the what-if’s and all that, (but) we gotta stay away from it because it’s never helped,” Ganot said on Tuesday. “Other than learn from that … versus pouting about it, we can’t have it back. You’ve heard me say over the years, I don’t want it back, we don’t want it back. It happened for a reason, we gotta move forward and use it.

“It’s always us first, then them, it’ll always be that way.”

The first order of business will be shaking a bad habit of allowing missed shots to affect the way the Warriors play, on both ends.

“It’s disappointing that we’re talking about some of the same themes,” Ganot said. “When we miss some shots, we go stagnant and look a little bit sad. Sad’s not going to get it done.”

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