Warriors start ‘Round 2’ at Cal State Fullerton

Hawai’i center Bernardo da Silva scored nine points and grabbed 10 rebounds in last Saturday’s 83-73 home victory over Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. (Chris Kadooka file photo)

For the University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team, this week’s road trip to Orange County, Calif., is all about second chances.

In particular, Thursday’s game at Cal State Fullerton is about negating a heartbreaking 63-61 overtime home loss to the Titans on Dec. 30, in the Warriors’ Big West Conference season opener. With the 5 p.m. (Hawai’i time) tipoff, the game will be available via livestream on ESPN + and will also be broadcast live via radio on ESPN Honolulu 1420AM.

UH is 11-10 overall and 3-6 in league play, with the Fullerton loss foreshadowing a rough first half in the Big West schedule.

“We had a slow start to Conference, and I feel like we put ourselves in a bit of a hole,” said Warriors center Bernardo da Silva. “But we still have a chance to win, and we’re excited to have a chance to correct our mistakes. We play each team twice, so all the teams we played, we already have a pretty good feel for them. So especially this week against Fullerton and (UC) Irvine, they’re two teams we’ve already played and we watched the film.

“I feel like a lot of the things we saw in the games here, are things that are going to happen on the road. So then it’s up to us to make the adjustment, and we feel pretty confident that we will.”

Hawai’i can feel a little better about itself coming off last Saturday’s 83-73 home victory over Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, which snapped a three-game losing streak. Senior guards Noel Coleman, JoVon McClanahan and Juan Munoz led the way with 23, 12 and 11 points, respectively. In the frontcourt, da Silva added nine points and 10 rebounds, and forward Justin McKoy contributed 13 points and five boards.

Aside from the points themselves is how they were scored: In categories where the team had struggled, the Warriors had 32 points in the paint, 25 on fast breaks and 25 off of turnovers.

UH also converted 35 of 46 free throw attempts (76.1 percent).

“In terms of free throw rate, that’s something we always want to put as a focus,” Warriors coach Eran Ganot said. “That’s part of being a good team. And obviously when you’re struggling in some other areas offensively and you’re trying to find easy baskets … free throw rate is something that has always been a focus for us, and obviously the way the game played out a little bit, I thought our guys did a good job of adjusting to that.”

Cal State Fullerton, which also had some early season struggles, is now 11-10 and 4-5 while riding a three-game win streak including a 68-50 home victory over Cal State Bakersfield last Saturday.

In the win over Hawai’i on Dec. 30, the Titans were missing top scorer Max Jones due to injury. Jones, a 6-foot-4 guard, had nine points to go with five rebounds, two assists and one steal last Saturday.

“It’s gonna be a bigger challenge — and that’s what you live for — always the second time around, because you played them before and you’re getting closer to (conference) tournament play,” Ganot said. “To be honest, it’s awesome. As a competitor, you want to play other teams at their best, and at their place … After our game (Dec. 30), they had their stretch where they probably wish they had back, and then they continued to fight and now they have some momentum.

“That’s what we’re looking to do, and it’s a long grind of a (league) season, we’re not even halfway.”

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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