Hawai’i men’s basketball falls to Cal State Fullerton in overtime heartbreaker to open Big West play

Hawai’i men’s basketball falls to Cal State Fullerton in overtime heartbreaker to open Big West play

Hawaii men’s basketball falls to Cal State Fullerton in overtime heartbreaker to open Big West play

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED DEC 30, 2023

HONOLULU — The stumble from the Diamond Head peak to base continues. 

After finishing in fourth place in their title defense of the annual Diamond Head Classic to close out the non-conference schedule, the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors men’s basketball team saw its losing streak extend to three games after opening Big West conference play with a 63-61 overtime loss to Cal State Fullerton inside SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center Saturday night. 

Hawai’i would get the New Years’ Eve-eve party started with the game’s first points as Ryan Rapp banked home a step-through layup in his first career start for the Rainbow Warriors. The junior guard out of Melbourne, Australia entered the lineup for graduate transfer Matt Cotton — who played just five minutes and 42 seconds before putting his warmup back on for the rest of the night. Cotton did not play in the second half or overtime for undisclosed reasons. 

Fullerton guard DJ Brewton answered the Hawai’i bucket with long pull-up jumper to knot it at two before sinking a pair of free throws to give CSUF the team’s first lead of the game at 4-2. Rainbow Warriors’ guard Noel Coleman got his first points of the night after hammering home a two-handed jam off of a baseline dunk to tie it at four and gave the ‘Bows the lead once again after drilling a right-corner three-pointer to make it 9-6. The back-and-forth beginning reached the under-16 media timeout tied at nine after Grayson Carper responded to Coleman’s three with a triple of his own. 

The teams held each other without another point until Hawai’i’s Mor Seck was whistled for a goaltend with 11:28 left in the opening half, giving Fullerton an 11-9 advantage. Justin McKoy tied the game at 11 on the next possession and a 1-of-2 trip to the free throw line for Seck pushed UH back in front, 12-11. 

Back-to-back buckets for CSUF pushed the Titans ahead by three before Carper drilled his second three of the half to give the visitors a six-point lead, 18-12. The ‘Bows would cut into the lead with a Coleman reverse layup went through to push the senior over 1,000 points in his University of Hawai’i career (he reached 1K for his entire college career earlier this season against Hawaii Pacific), but that was the tightest the margin would get for the rest of the half as foul shooting woes continued to plague UH. 

Carper made his third three in as many attempts with 44 ticks left on the first-half clock off of a Hawai’i turnover to make it 27-18 before a Seck free throw and UH freshman Tom Beattie came up with a steal and score just before half to help the ‘Bows go into halftime down just six. 

Hawai’i shot just 35% from the field through the first 20 minutes, making one of 10 attempts from long range while turning the ball over seven times to build the first half hole. Coleman led UH with seven points as only him and McKoy managed to make more than one field goal for the home team to start action. 

Coming out of the break, the ‘Bows flew out with a furry to tie the game at 29 as McKoy drilled two three-pointers to quickly close the gap and Rapp got his second layup of the night to drop to excite the home crowd with a fresh setting across the rest of the half. The two rival programs traded blows, drawn charges and the lead as the second half rolled on, seeing Hawai’i jump back ahead in loud fashion as Juan Munoz got in on the fun with his first three-ball of the night — much to the delight of the home fans — to give the ‘Bows the 41-39 advantage with 10:37 remaining. 

Fullerton would not trail long, tying the game on the next possession and re-taking a two-point lead with a Donovan Oday steal and slam as the game ticked under 10 minutes to play. Hawai’i cut it to 43-42 after Seck split a pair of foul shots before CSUF’s Tory San Antonio pushed the lead back to three with a nice finish inside. 

UH’s Tom Beattie brought the score even again at 45 with a triple from the top of the key, but Brewton took the lead right back for the Titans and Justin McKoy would be whistled for a questionable offensive foul, his fourth personal of the contest, with 8:08 left to play that sent the UNC transfer to the bench and sent Ganot into a frenzy with the officials ahead of the under-eight media timeout. 

Hawai’i jumped back in front by one following the stoppage of play after forward Bernardo de Silva split a couple free throws and increased its lead to two after McClanahan got fouled late in the shot clock and went 1-for-2 from the line himself with 4:46 remaining, making it 49-47 in favor of the ‘Bows. 

Just as it looked like Ganot’s squad would force another shot clock violation with just over three minutes to play, Fullerton’s San Antonio rattled home a jumper to beat the shot clock horn and tying the game at 49-all and forcing a UH timeout. After the timeout, the ‘Bows would go to de Silva on back-to-back possessions down low and take a two-point lead with under 120 seconds left in regulation. 

It was CSUF’s Brewton showing off the clutch scoring gene with a running floater off glass over McClanahan with 1:38 left to make it 53-53, but again de Silva answered with a hoop on the other end, this time with an offensive rebound and putback going down while being fouled to give UH a three-point advantage. 

Brewton split a pair of free throws to cut it down to a two-point deficit before the Titans tied it at 56 apiece with under a minute to play and produced a stop on the other end to get a chance to win it at the buzzer but the try went awry. 

Hawai’i nearly had holiday heroics from McClanahan again, who tossed a three-quarter-court heave just milliseconds after the buzzer sounded that ended up going in anyway — instead going to overtime for the third time in the last four meetings against Cal State Fullerton. 

The ‘Bows took the extra period’s first lead behind a pair of McKoy free throws before three makes in four tries from the charity stripe for CSUF’s Oday put the Titans ahead with 3:57 left in overtime. The Rainbow Warriors jumped in front again after a nice give-and-go between Beattie and de Silva finished in a layup for the guard from New Zealand and a 60-59 advantage for the home squad. 

UH got the defensive stop on the ensuing possession but McClanahan was unable to get the following three-point try to fall with 1:42 left to play, keeping it a one-point game as the Titans called timeout. 

Much like the final possessions of regulation, CSUF went back to Brewton’s matchup against the smaller McClanahan and allowed the guard to use his size to re-take the lead with 77 seconds to play, 61-60. This time, de Silva missed the answer on the other end, seeing his right-handed hook roll off the rim and Cal State Fullerton’s John Mikey Square muscle home an insurance basket on the other end for the Titans with 26.2 seconds left in overtime to make it 63-60. 

Hawai’i had a chance to tie after McClanahan was fouled on a three-point attempt with 17 seconds to play, but the first two shots went off the mark before sinking the final one to make it a two-point game. CSUF’s Brewton left the door open for UH by missing two consecutive free throws, but a mishandled post feed and rainbow three-point try by Justin McKoy resulted in a miss and the fifth consecutive loss to Cal State Fullerton for the program. 

Brewton led Fullerton with 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the floor as the Titans bounced back from an opening loss to Big West play earlier in the week. CSU Fullerton finished the game forcing 17 turnovers by Hawai’i and held the ‘Bows to a 5-of-23 shooting performance from range in the loss. 

Bernardo de Silva paced the ‘Bows, posting another double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds as the six-foot-nine forward was featured on possessions late for UH. McKoy, who battled foul trouble for a large portion of the evening, followed closely behind with 12 points and eight boards in the loss. 

Hawai’i will look to snap its three-game losing streak when they return to action on the road to begin the new year, taking on CSU Bakersfield on January 4 for the team’s “first” road contest of the season. The ‘Bows participated in the Acrisure Invitational on the mainland for two games at a neutral site before playing Utah at the Delta Center for another “neutral” site contest.