UC Santa Barbara holds off Warriors, 77-71

Hawai’i center Bernardo da Silva scored 14 points and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds before fouling out late in the Warriors’ loss at UCSB. (Chris Kadooka photo)

“Better” was not quite could enough for the University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team on Saturday afternoon, as UC Santa Barbara held off the Warriors, 77-71, in Big West Conference action at Goleta, Calif.

A crowd of 1,427 at the Thunderdome watched Ajay Mitchell score a game-high 23 points with five assists and Josh Pierre-Louis add 16 points and four steals as the Gauchos snapped a three-game losing streak and improved to 14-11 overall and 7-8 in league play. Freshman guard Tom Beattie scored a team-high 15 points with six rebounds and three assists for UH, which had its three-game win streak snapped and fell to 15-12, 7-8.

UCSB and Hawai’i are now tied for sixth place in the conference standings, but the Gauchos are considered the higher seed for now by virtue of them sweeping the two-game regular season series. UCSB won in Honolulu, 78-61, on Jan. 25.

The Warriors played better this time around, even taking an 11-point lead (34-23) late in the first half. But it wasn’t quite enough, as the Gauchos chipped away in the second half and eventually took the lead for good on Mitchell’s floater with 1:24 remaining to make it 72-69. UH cut it to 72-71 on Beattie’s layup 17 seconds later, but that would be it for Hawai’i’s scoring as a turnover and blocked shot killed the next two possessions.

“It’s tough, because offensively, we’re coming on,” Warriors coach Eran Ganot said in his post-game radio interview. “You see 51 (percent) from the (field), 55 (percent) from 3(-point line), 88 (percent) from the (free throw) line … and you lose the game. Our defense was really good to start the (second) half … We had been able to hang our hats on defensive rebounding, and it wasn’t there for us today. So at the end of the day, the discipline and the possession battle — they had more offensive rebounds and less turnovers, and that was a big difference in a (two-)possession game.”

UCSB started quickly, jumping out to a 9-0 lead but Hawai’i answered with its own 10-0 run to lead 10-9 on Justin McKoy’s 3-pointer six minutes in.

The teams then traded baskets for awhile, until Bernardo da Silva’s layup ignited a 14-5 surge capped by his own lefty hook shot to push the Warriors ahead, 34-23, with just under a minute remaining before halftime.

UH enjoyed a 34-25 lead at the break, thanks largely to 6-of-12 shooting from 3-point range, and still led, 42-34, after Noel Coleman’s outside jumper with 15:39 remaining in the game. But Mitchell answered with a 3-pointer two minutes later to ignite a 12-4 surge that erased the deficit as Jason Fontenet scored on an inside jumper to tie it at 46-46 eight minutes in.

After more back-and-forth — there were 11 lead changes overall by the three-minute mark — Mitchell finally made the eventual go-ahead basket with 1:24 remaining.

Despite Mitchell’s 23 points and Pierre-Louis’ 16, Ganot said the Warriors did a decent job making them earn their scoring opportunities.

“We tried to make those guys work on both ends, and you feel like you’re doing a good job there,” Ganot said. “But then there’s (our) discipline, our shot selection, the pick-6’s … and you need some easy baskets to break your way, and then you can make the tougher shots. So that part is disappointing, obviously.”

Hawai’i now returns home facing a rare Thursday bye before playing host to Long Beach State on Saturday.


  1. UC Irvine (12-2)
  2. UC San Diego (11-3)
  3. UC Davis (10-4)
  4. Long Beach State (9-5)
  5. CSUN (8-7)
  6. UC Santa Barbara (7-8)
  7. HAWAI’I (7-8)
  8. UC Riverside (7-8)
  9. Cal State Bakersfield (5-10)
  10. Cal State Fullerton (4-10)
  11. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (0-14)

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