Seniors help UH top CS Bakersfield, 74-57

Hawai’i seniors (from left) Bernardo da silva, Justin McKoy, Noel Coleman, Matt Cotton, JoVon McClanahan and Juan Munoz were honored with aloha after their final home game Saturday night. (Brandon Flores Photography)

“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”

The University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team took that advice to heart Saturday night, closing out the regular season with an emphatic 74-57 home victory over Cal State Bakersfield.

A supportive and vocal “White Out” crowd of 4,877 in SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center watched senior forward Justin McKoy finish with game-highs of 23 points with eight rebounds and fellow senior Noel Coleman add 18 points and three steals as the Warriors improved to 19-13 overall and 11-9 in the Big West Conference. Kaleb Higgins scored 15 points and Marvin McGhee III added 11 points for the Roadrunners, who fell to 13-18 and 8-12.

UH officially finished fourth in the regular season standings, but with runner-up UC San Diego ineligible for next week’s Hercules Tires Big West Tournament, the Warriors moved up a spot and secured the No. 3 seed. They will begin play at 4 p.m. (Hawai’i time) Thursday in Henderson, Nev., against the winner of Wednesday’s first-round game between UC Santa Barbara and Cal State Northridge.

Earning that top four finish and first-round bye is especially huge, considering Hawai’i began league play at 2-6 — its worst conference start since joining the Big West in 2013.

“It’s incredible when you look back on it, and the grind of it,” Warriors coach Eran Ganot said. “We’ve just been focusing on getting better, attacking practices, put ourselves in position.”

Saturday was yet another exercise in perseverance. After Bakersfield took a 13-9 lead on Cameron Wilbon’s jump hook with 11:30 remaining in the first half, McKoy responded with two free throws to spark a 13-4 run capped by da Silva’s two free throws to push UH ahead, 22-17.

The Roadrunners came back to tie it at 22-22, but freshman guard Tom Beattie made a driving layup to put the Warriors ahead for good at the 4:46 mark and da Silva’s layup off a pick-and-roll later helped UH close out the half with an 18-8 surge making it 40-30 at the break.

The Warriors then opened the second half with a 15-5 run to extend the lead to 55-35 after Coleman’s free throw four minutes in, but Bakersfield chipped away and eventually closed it to 57-52 on Jaden Alexander’s leaner with 9:17 left. But that would be as close as the Roadrunners would get, as senior JoVon McClanahan scored on a cut to the basket and sweet dish by da Silva to ignite an 11-0 run capped by McKoy’s free throws to make it 68-52 with 4:18 remaining.

The Roadrunners could not get closer than 13 points the rest of the way.

“It’s about getting hot at the right time, and I think we showed we got hot at the right time,” McKoy said. “I think some of those losses helped motivate us to play super hard and bounce back. So I think we have exactly what we need to go into the tournament and make some noise.”

After the game, each senior — Matt Cotton, Justin McKoy, Juan Munoz, JoVon McClanahan, Coleman and da Silva was individually introduced and honored with lei and a plaque, and got to perform their final shot or dunk.

Emotions ran deep as much of the crowd stuck around to honor the Seniors appropriately and show support. It’s that kind of support that led da Silva, McClanahan and Coleman to stay for four years (five for da Silva) while some other teammates exited through the recently created and popular transfer portal.

“I think it’s just the love I have for Hawai’i,” McClanahan said. “I don’t think it was about anything else besides, it just felt like home. That’s why I stayed, it was just too much a home for me, I really appreciate everybody that I met on the journey. Everything has been worth it.”

McKoy, who played at national powers Virginia and North Carolina before transferring to UH last summer, said Saturday’s Senior Night was a unique college basketball experience.

“This place is special,” McKoy said. “I don’t think anyone does it like Hawai’i.”


  1. UC Irvine (17-3)
  2. UC San Diego (15-5)*
  3. UC Davis (14-6)
  4. HAWAI’I (11-9)
  5. Long Beach State (10-10)
  6. UC Riverside (10-10)
  7. UC Santa Barbara (9-11)
  8. Cal State Northridge (9-11)
  9. Cal State Bakersfield (8-12)
  10. Cal State Fullerton (7-13)**
  11. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (0-20)**

* Ineligible for Hercules Tire Big West Conference tournament, due to probationary status after moving up from NCAA Division II

** Failed to qualify for Hercules Tire Big West Conference tournament

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