Warriors end skid and top Cal Poly, 83-73

Hawai’i senior guard Noel Coleman scored a team-high 23 points and grabbed four rebounds with two assists Saturday night to help the Warriors end their three-game losing streak. (Chris Kadooka photo)

On the long list of goals for the University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team Saturday night, by far the most important was, “Get the ‘W.’ “

That box got checked with a crucial and much-needed 83-73 victory over visiting Cal Poly, snapping a frustrating three-game losing streak that left the team and its fans searching for answers.

A loyal and supportive crowd of 3,561 in SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center watched Noel Coleman score 23 points and Justin McKoy add 13 points as the Warriors improved to 11-10 overall and 3-6 in the Big West Conference. Kobe Sanders poured in a game-high 32 points and Aidan Prukop added 23 points for the Mustangs, who fell to 4-17 and 0-9.

UH was dealing with multiple issues during the three-game slide, including turnovers (season-high 20 at UC San Diego last Saturday, and then 19 in Thursday’s home loss to UC Santa Barbara), lack of offensive rebounds (only six on Thursday), poor shooting (0-for-15 during one 11-minute stretch vs. UCSB) and not being physical enough on defense (54 points allowed in the paint Thursday).

Then there was the recent announcement that backup center Mor Seck is lost for the season due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

So … yeah, you could say Saturday’s victory was a much-needed one.

“Good win, happy for our guys,” Warriors coach Eran Ganot said. “I thought we had a great approach yesterday (at practice), today it was all about putting yourself in position and then let it all out. That’s kind of been the message. Make sure we deserve it, and then go from there. So I thought they put themselves in position (to win).”

The first half was a defensive struggle, with Hawai’i leading 26-23 at the break despite shooting only 14.3 percent (2 for 14) from 3-point range and 37 percent (10 of 27) overall.

The Warriors then opened the second half with a 9-0 run that opened the lead to 35-23 on Coleman’s md-range jumper four minutes in.

Cal Poly was able to close it to 47-40 with 8:40 remaining after Sanders converted both ends of a 1-and-1, but Juan Munoz answered with a pull-up jumper 23 seconds later to ignite a 17-6 run that stretched the lead to 64-46 following two free throws by JoVon McClanahan with just under four minutes left.

“I think we played way harder than before, and I think we set the tone with that tonight,” said Coleman, who sank 11 of 12 free throws, including several down the stretch. “Every game this year is going to be a tough one, it doesn’t matter against who. But I think we came out with the right mindset today.”

Closing out the game was a bit tougher than expected, as the Mustangs were able to hit a few 3-pointers and eventually narrowed the lead to 80-73 on Prukop’s free throw with 33 seconds remaining. But Coleman made three of four from the charity stripe in the next 26 ticks to finally shut the door.

When the horn sounded at 0:00, the remaining crowd unleashed a loud ovation that expressed everyone’s sense of relief. But McClanahan said this was just the beginning of a long road back to where the Warriors want to be.

UH now heads to the continent for games at Cal State Fullerton on Thursday and UC Irvine on Saturday.

“We’re going to see how tough we are mentally and physically to grind,” McClanahan said. “Obviously I think everyone knows we’re better than what we’ve showed. We got one win, a game that we were supposed to win. And then (now) we gotta go steal games. It is what it is, we put ourselves in this position … we just gotta come out and get production from everybody. I think there’s production across the board team-wise, so if that’s what it’s gonna take to win, then everybody has to show up.”

Big West Standings

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

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