Warriors hoping to rise up and beat Cal Poly

Hawai’i senior guard Juan Munoz scored 12 points with four steals and three assists in Thursday’s 78-61 home loss to UC Santa Barbara, in his second start of the season. (Photo by Brandon Flores Photography)

Nothing cures self-doubt quite like a victory, which the University of Hawai’i really hopes — or needs? — to achieve Saturday night against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. in SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center, and the game will be televised live statewide on Spectrum Hawai’i Channel 12 and broadcast live via radio on ESPN Honolulu 1420AM.

With the two teams finding themselves at the bottom of the Big West Conference standings, their sense of urgency is sky-high.

The Warriors started the season at 7-1 but are now 10-10 after losing nine of their past 12 games, including five of their past six at home. Their 2-6 league record represents UH’s worst eight-game start since joining the Big West in 2012-13.

And to compound matters, backup center Mor Seck was declared out for the season Thursday after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during Tuesday’s practice.

“They’re all must-win games,” Hawai’i coach Eran Ganot said. “It puts more on it (Saturday), because of where we’re at … Right we gotta play good basketball, we gotta get our identity, we gotta find a (lineup) combination. The rest will kind of come from there.”

Cal Poly (4-16, 0-8) is coming off a 54-51 home loss to Cal State Fullerton, while the Warriors are coming off a 78-61 home loss to UC Santa Barbara.

While UH’s loss was mostly blamed on a shocking 26-0 run by the Gauchos in the first half, including a dreadful 0-for-15 shooting drought during that stretch, the defeat exposed other major issues. Offensive rebounding was a primary concern even before Seck got injured, but that area was mostly a disaster on Saturday, when the Warriors managed only four second-chance points.

“This was our worst offensive rebounding team by far, not even close,” Ganot said. “Six offensive boards on the amount of misses we had … is unacceptable.”

Another glaring stat was UCSB’s 54 points in the paint, an astounding number indicating a lack of physical play by Hawai’i near the basket.

“What do we lose with Mor? We lost his physicality, his rim protection, his screening,” Ganot said. “So collectively we have to replace that. That’s where we’re at. We were struggling before Mor’s situation, so we have to continue to improve and then also (employ) ‘Next man, every man’ and fill in the void that Mor leaves best we can, collectively.”

Senior guard Juan Munoz, who has started at point the past two games, said cohesiveness and teamwork will continue to be the keys to reversing the Warriors’ fortune, as it was after they finally broke that 26-0 run and pretty much played the Gauchos even the rest of the way.

“Honestly, just playing for each other, I think we all just looked at each other and said we’re going to play for the guys next to us,” Munoz said. “We started getting good shots, and that’s what we want to do all 40 minutes, not just (for) a select 10 or 15 here or there. I think once we do that a full 40 minutes, that’s when it will be really special for us, and I know that we can turn this around. So I’m not worried about it.

“We just gotta find that grit and passion within ourselves and play hard.”

Big West Standings

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

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