Warriors hold on to turn back CSUN, 72-70

Hawai’i center Bernardo da Silva scored 18 points and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds Wednesday night to help the Warriors withstand a furious late CSUN rally. (Chris Kadooka photo)

March is a time for college basketball madness, so perhaps Hawai’i’s stressful 72-70 victory over visiting Cal State Northridge on Wednesday night was only fitting for this calendar date.

A supportive but anxious crowd of 2,699 in SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center watched Bernardo da Silva score 18 points, grab a game-high 12 rebounds and make a crucial stop in the closing seconds as the Warriors improved to 18-13 overall and 10-9 in the Big West Conference. Most importantly, the win secured a berth for UH in next week’s Hercules Tires Big West Tournament, which will include only the top eight eligible teams.

De’Sean Allen-Aikens scored a game-high 34 points with nine boards for the Matadors, who fell to 18-14, 9-11.

The Warriors led, 62-49, after Tom Beattie’s 3-pointer with 5:28 remaining, but Gianni Hunt answered with a 12-foot jumper in the paint to ignite an 18-6 run capped by Jasman Sangha’s jump hook shot which closed it to 68-67 with 32.9 seconds left. Noel Coleman’s two free throws about 10 ticks later gave Hawai’i some breathing room at 71-67, but Allen-Eikens buried a 3-pointer from beyond the top of the key to cut it to 71-70 with 0:12.9 showing on the clock.

After da Silva was fouled half a tick later, he sank one of two free throws to make it 72-70. On the ensuing possession, Dionte Bostick quickly drove down an open lane and attempted a layup, but da Silva got a clean hand on the ball and Bostick fumbled it out of bounds. After the Warriors’ first inbounds pass was knocked away with 1.8 showing, a second pass went 90 feet almost to the opposite baseline, where Justin McKoy gathered it in and secured it as time expired.

“I thought it was probably one of our best 12-minute stretches, in the second half (up 62-49),” UH coach Eran Ganot said. “Our offensive flow was great, turnovers were down. But then, it’s a 40-minute cover with (CSUN), they’re high-octane. And we missed some free throws, we missed some shots around the rim, we missed some open 3’s, and then just like that … they got drop-offs, to the line, easy baskets. And we had to weather it at the end.”

The first half was a milder roller coaster, with the Matadors taking an 18-15 lead on two free throws by Allen-Eikens with six minutes remaining, and the Warriors responding with an 11-3 run capped by da Silva’s layup to go up, 26-21, with 3:37 showing. Allen-Eikens then scored on a layup and Hunt drained a buzzer-beating mid-range jumper from the left wing to cut it to 26-25.

CSUN took its last lead at 33-31 on Allen-Eikens’ layup with 16:21 remaining, but Ryan Rapp answered with three-point play to spark a 21-6 run capped by two free throws by McKoy to push Hawai’i ahead, 52-39, with nine minutes left.

The Warriors maintained that lead after Beattie’s 3-pointer at the 5:28 mark, but that’s when the Matadors started to chip away with a series of transition and fast break layups, taking advantage of UH misses from the field and free throw line.

In one 59-second stretch, CSUN scored on three straight layups to trim the lead from 65-55 to 65-61 with 2:45 remaining.

“A few times, I feel like I should have fouled,” said da Silva, who finished the game with zero fouls in nearly 35 minutes played. “That’s more just being aware of reads, and knowing when to foul and not foul.”

Ganot said da Silva, who has had to manage foul trouble throughout the season especially after backup center Mor Seck was lost for the year due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament, has focused on balancing tough defense with staying in the game.

“We talked about it in the first half, there were a couple (layups) that he just allowed,” Ganot said. “We could have been more aggressive, which we were early in the second half. We talked about being a presence, we want to take teams off the 3 but not give them layups. I do think part of it was, if you watch his verticality … we worked on (that) a lot this week. This was a big week for building our wall and defending without fouling, working on the discipline of staying hands-up and not reaching at the last second.

“I thought we did a good job of that (overall) … I thought we did a horrible job in that two-minute stretch.”

As for Allen-Eikens, a versatile 6-foot-6 forward, McKoy said he was a tough cover.

“He shot 14 of 23 (from the field), that’s efficient, 3 for 5 from 3,” McKoy said. “I thought I probably should have chased him over a little more, we felt like he wasn’t going to look to shoot as much. I should have been better, especially late game, knowing that’s what they need. He just got downhill … it was tough.”

In the end, though, da Silva made the game’s biggest defensive play by capping the ball cleanly as Bostick tried to go up for the potential tying layup.

“I was just trying to stay disciplined, trying to make the right play,” da Silva said. “I know he likes to pump-fake, so I just tried to stay solid.”

With the tournament slot now secured, the Warriors now turn their attention to Saturday’s home finale against Cal State Bakersfield and a chance to earn a top four finish, which would result in a first-round bye.

“Today could have been like a postseason game,” Ganot said, regarding the urgency. “So these last two games worked out in the sense where we can control what we can control, and put ourselves in position … It’s humbling, from where we were (with a 2-6 league start). But like I said to our guys, ‘Enjoy this, (then) get back to work, we’ve got a big game on Saturday.’ “


  1. UC Irvine (15-3)
  2. UC San Diego (14-4)
  3. UC Davis (12-6)
  4. Long Beach State (10-8)
  5. HAWAI’I (10-9)
  6. CSUN (9-11)
  7. UC Riverside (8-10)
  8. UC Santa Barbara (8-10)
  9. Cal State Bakersfield (8-11)
  10. Cal State Fullerton (7-11)
  11. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (0-18)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Theme Blog Explorer by Kantipur Themes