Warriors play host to upstart UC San Diego

Hawai’i point guard JoVon McClanahan scored 16 points and dished out five assists off the bench in last Saturday’s 93-68 loss at UC Irvine. (Chris Kadooka file photo)

Even as the “new kid on the block,” UC San Diego did not take very long to establish itself as a force in Big West Conference men’s basketball.

The Tritons are in their fourth league season since moving up from NCAA Division II status, and thus are still ineligible for postseason play, including the conference tournament next month. But that hasn’t stopped UCSD from making a strong statement in the regular season, as they are now 15-8 overall and 9-2 in the Big West, tied for second with UC Davis and just one game behind first-place UC Irvine.

The Tritons will bring that strong standing and the confidence that comes with it into Thursday’s game against Hawai’i in SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff center. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m., and the game will be televised live statewide on Spectrum Channel 12, with a live radio broadcast via ESPN 1420AM.

By contrast, the Warriors are struggling at 12-11, 4-7, and coming off a 93-68 loss at UC Irvine last Saturday.

UH coach Eran Ganot always takes an “Us first, then them” approach to weekly preparation, and the “us” part remains a challenge.

“I think we’re hanging in, we’re 2-2 in the past four games, and we’re trying to get to the breakthrough,” Ganot said. “You see some flashes … how do you break through? How do you make your move? The good thing is, there’s nine (regular season) games left, there’s an opportunity there. But it’s not going to be easy. The league standings are pretty jumbled up. Nine games is a lot. For us to make our move, it’s really going to be us clicking at the same time.

“We’ve had nine or 10 different double-digit scorers — can we all click at the same time? We’ve shown potential offensively or defensively around the glass, but can we click on all phases at the same time? That’s what we’re looking for, that’s what we’re working towards.”

Ganot said a big key will be setting the tone early, with last week’s road trip being an example. The Warriors opened it with an impressive 76-68 victory at Cal State Fullerton before falling flat at UC Irvine.

“This trip was very unique, a tale of two games,” Ganot said. “We set the tone at Fullerton, big game on the road … broke through there. (But) Irvine set the tone and we never really recovered. I was appreciative of how we played better offensively in the second half, when we cut into the lead a little bit with enough time to make a move, but it was a big deficit to overcome.

“Give them (the Anteaters) credit, they owned the paint, I think we gotta continue to understand that teams are going at that … and they’ve also been attacking us at the perimeter. So, work to do, and back to work we go.”

Despite UCSD being tied for second and Hawai’i being tied for eighth, Warriors senior point guard JoVon McClanahan said the separation on the court is not that great.

“I think just being optimistic in the sense of that, we’re not far off, I think that’s the cool thing about basketball,” said McClanahan, a tri-captain. “Until the season’s over, we still have a chance. A win or two, just like a good week of basketball, can move you up in the rankings. So we just gotta hone in on this week, that’s all we can control.”

The Tritons are coming off an 85-76 loss at Long Beach State, but do own a 67-61 home win over UH on Jan. 20. The Warriors led early in that game before a 17-0 run by UCSD late in the first half had them chasing the rest of the way.

“Honestly, I think that was a winnable game at San Diego,” McClanahan said. “They are a very good team this year and they’re doing a lot of things well. But I think if we just hone in on our job, and make sure we follow the scout … it should be a win for us, if we do our jobs.

“It’s a tough task coming up that we just gotta be up for.”


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

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