Hawai’i’s Big West free-fall continues after loss to Mitchell, UC Santa Barbara

Hawai’i’s Big West free-fall continues after loss to Mitchell, UC Santa Barbara

UCSB guard Ajay Mitchell misses a free throw during the Gauchos’ 78-61 win over Hawai’i.

Hawai’i’s Big West free-fall continues after loss to Mitchell, UC Santa Barbara

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED JAN 25, 2024

HONOLULU — Mor injury, more problems. 

After announcing earlier in the day that 7-foot-1 sophomore center Mor Seck would miss the remainder of the 2023-24 season after suffering an ACL injury to his left knee in practice Tuesday, the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (10-10, 2-6 Big West) fell once again Thursday night at home as defending-conference champion UC Santa Barbara (12-7, 5-4 Big West) won for the fourth straight time against UH, 78-61, inside SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center. 

Hawai’i opened the evening strong with another new starting lineup, this time the three-guard lineup that found success in the second half of the UC San Diego loss last Saturday, grabbing a five-point advantage to the delight of fans. 

It was the last smile for a while. 

Hawai’i’s offense, one that has been inconsistent for much of the year, went lifeless for the next nine-plus minutes of action as the Gauchos rattled off an incredible 26-0 run to take full control, 28-7, with 7:40 left in the first half. JoVon McClanahan would snap the scoreless streak for Hawai’i with a late-shot clock pull-up on the baseline as the ‘Bows rattled off ten points over the next three minutes to keep the game within 20 with four minutes remaining before half, 36-17. 

The Rainbow Warriors closed the half strong offensively, making seven of their final eight attempts but continuing to see struggles stacking defensive stops as Hawai’i entered the locker room trailing, 43-27. 

Defending Big West Player of the Year Ajay Mitchell showed off his NBA-pedigree all evening, continuing the performance into the beginning of the second half with the first six points out of the locker rooms before fellow Belgian Noel Coleman knocked home a triple to get Hawai’i started once again. 

The team stabilized from there, trading baskets with USCB to keep the margin around 18-20 as time wound down in the ‘Bows sixth loss in eight tries in Big West play, eventually falling 78-61. 

UCSB’s Mitchell dropped home 25 points and added six assists as he imposed his will on the Hawai’i defense all night. Fellow backcourt mainstay Josh Pierre-Louis added a double-double, posting 10 rebounds to go along with his 14 points while Yohan Traore dominated inside en route to 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting. The Gauchos dominated inside all game long, outscoring UH in the painted area, 54-30, while winning the rebounding battle, 33-21, to help spotlight the loss of Seck for Hawai’i.

UH was led by Noel Coleman’s 19 points as one of three starters to finish in double figures, along with forward Bernardo de Silva’s 13 points and Juan Munoz’s dozen. The other seven Rainbow Warriors that saw time combined for 17 total points on 6-of-24 shooting as the offense struggled through multiple extended droughts throughout the night. 

Hawai’i will host Cal Poly on Saturday, January 27 inside SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center with tip-off scheduled for 7:00 p.m. HT as they face an increasingly-steeper hill to climb out of the cellar.  

“Together” Hawai’i snaps 4-game home losing streak with tough win over UC Riverside

“Together” Hawai’i snaps 4-game home losing streak with tough win over UC Riverside

“Together” Hawai’i snaps 4-game home losing streak with tough win over UC Riverside

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED JAN 13, 2024

HONOLULU – Finally. 

After dropping their last four home contests and entering Saturday night on a bit of a slide, the University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team (10-7, 2-3 Big West) used a gutsy second half defensive effort and JoVon McClanahan’s 14 points to down UC Riverside (7-11, 2-3 Big West) inside SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center for just the ‘Bows second win in the last seven meetings between the programs. 

Hawai’i would get off to a fast start behind six early points from McClanahan, taking an 8-2 lead not even three minutes into action. UH’s advantage trickled on for the game’s first eight minutes until UCR’s Ben Griscti drilled a three-pointer to give the Highlanders their first lead of the night, 13-12, with 12:05 left in the first half. 

UH took the lead right back on the next possession as Justin McKoy got a hook shot to go plus a foul to send the game to the second media timeout of the first 20 minutes. Following the stop in the action, Juan Munoz would get in on the fun for Hawai’i with his first three-point field goal of the evening making it 18-15 in favor of the ‘Bows. 

UC Riverside would fight back in front with four consecutive points, but UH responded with a 7-0 run of their own behind a Munoz layup, Mor Seck thundering dunk and true freshman Akira Jacobs’ first triple of the night to jump ahead with 7:11 left in the half, 25-19. The Rainbow Warriors’ lead would grow as large as eight before a nightmare end to the half led to a Highlanders’ run to close the gap to one as the teams entered the locker rooms for halftime. 

After the break, the teams would continue the end-of-half trend of trading metaphorical blows with each other, trading the lead five times before the under-12-minutes media timeout when the Highlanders would hold a slim 48-44 lead. 

Eran Ganot’s squad turned up the heat on the defensive end from there. 

Following the timeout, Hawai’i started to chip away at the lead from the charity stripe with three makes in four attempts between Noel Coleman and Tom Beattie and six defensive stops in seven possessions. The ‘Bows would re-take the lead with 5:39 left in regulation behind back-to-back buckets from Coleman and Bernardo de Silva, 51-50, sending the 3,519 fans inside the Stan Sheriff Center into a frenzy.

That’s when the straightjackets came out. 

Hawai’i held UC Riverside without a field goal make from the 9:08 mark of the second half until there were 43 seconds remaining as McClanahan was busy icing the game from the free throw line and McKoy put the cherry on top with two makes of his own at the charity stripe to help snap a four-game home skid, 63-56. 

UC Riverside was led by Barrington Hargress and Nate Pickens, who had 18 and 10 points apiece in the loss. UH held usual standout scorer Isaiah Moses down for the most part as the guard finished the night 1-for-8 from the field and a total of four points.  

Hawai’i was led by McClanahan’s 14 points, including a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line as he battled being poked in the eye late to close out the win for the ‘Bows. Noel Coleman finished with 10 points in the victory for UH, snagging eight rebounds along the way to lead the team. 

The Rainbow Warriors will now hit the road once again, taking on rival Long Beach State on Thursday, January 18 in another increasingly important road trip in an ever-so-closing-tighter Big West standings. 

Hawai’i falls short against UC Irvine, drops 5th of last six games

Hawai’i falls short against UC Irvine, drops 5th of last six games

Hawai’i falls short against UC Irvine, drops 5th of last six games

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED JAN 11, 2023

HONOLULU — The University of Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (9-7, 1-3 Big West) dropped their fifth game in the last six tries on Thursday, falling to conference-leading UC Irvine (12-5, 5-0 Big West), 60-50, inside SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center. 

The two squads got off to a back-and-forth start, trading the lead multiple times as Hawai’i trailed, 7-6, at the first media timeout. After trading the lead nine times, the ‘Bows pushed back ahead for the final time, going up 15-13 with 11:31 left in the opening half after Bernardo de Silva got a cutting layup to go. 

That’s when the Anteaters of UC Irvine would roll off a 20-5 run over the final 11 minutes of the first half – aided by a rare Eran Ganot technical foul after back-to-back questionable decisions from the officials – to enter the halftime break with a 33-20 lead in hand. 

Despite the momentary step back, Ganot had hopes that the intensity of him fighting for his guys would help inspire an otherwise dull ‘Bows offensive effort.  

“I didn’t like the call – I don’t get many [techs],” Ganot said of the technical foul postgame. “I liked the fire our guys had in the second half. I said at halftime I would get myself thrown out of this game if it meant some kind of light, spark [for the team].” 

UH’s JoVon McClanahan sparked the ‘Bows second half offense from the start with a free throw line pull-up to begin a better offensive second half for the Rainbow Warriors. Behind the team’s defense, Hawai’i continued to stick around with the conference-leading Anteaters and with the help of super-sub Juan Munoz, UH crept back from 15 points down to make it a one possession game, 48-45, with nine minutes remaining in regulation. 

That would be the closest it would get for the Rainbow Warriors, giving up back-to-back buckets to see the Irvine lead grow back to seven. Hawai’i continued to make comeback efforts as the time ticked off, but the effort proved futile as UH would fall to the cream of the crop in the Big West Conference, 60-50. 

UC Irvine was led by Pierre Crockrell II’s 16 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the floor, getting 12 points from each of John Hohn and Carter Welling as well in the victory. 

“He understands the position at a high level,” Ganot said of the Anteaters’ guard after the game. “Today was one of the games he scored more. He usually doesn’t score as much but he can, he’s capable. He’s an elite midrange pull-up guy… [We] respect him.” 

Hawai’i’s Bernardo de Silva finished the night with a game-best 17 points and 14 rebounds, posting his fifth double-double of the season. Juan Munoz chipped in nine points and handed out three assists off of the bench in the loss for UH. 

The ‘Bows will try to get back to their winning ways this weekend when they host UC Riverside on Saturday, January 13 inside SimpliFi Arena. 

Hawaii’s offensive woes continue in loss against TCU, finish fourth in Diamond Head Classic

Hawaii’s offensive woes continue in loss against TCU, finish fourth in Diamond Head Classic

Hawaii’s offensive woes continue in loss against TCU, finish fourth in Diamond Head Classic 

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED DEC 24, 2023

HONOLULU — Coal in the stockings. 

The Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (8-4) men’s basketball team dropped consecutive games for the first time this season, falling to the TCU Horned Frogs (10-2) on Christmas Eve, 65-51, in the third-place matchup in the 2023 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic. 

For the second straight game, Hawai’i saw their opponent open up a multi-score lead off the bat as TCU drilled a pair of threes for a 6-1 lead before Noel Coleman made it a two-point game at the under-16 media timeout with tough and-one finish after being held scoreless for the first time this season against Georgia Tech. 

Hawai’i would take its first lead of the afternoon on a lob from JoVon McClanahan to Mor Seck with 13:14 left in opening half, 10-9, but the lead was short-lived. TCU re-took the lead on the very next possession with a Micah Peavy baseline jumper swishing clean through. UH’s Juan Munoz tied it at 13 following the under-12-minute media timeout, knocking down his first three of the afternoon. 

The Horned Frogs moved back out in front by five after Peavy responded with a three-pointer of his own and Ernest Udeh Jr. hammered home an alley-oop jam with 7:58 left in the opening half of play, but back-to-back buckets by UH’s Coleman brought the ‘Bows within four with Seck heading to the charity stripe with a chance to cut into the lead more. 

Unfortunately for Hawai’i, both of Seck’s free throws were off the mark and the Big 12’s Horned Frogs made the misses hurt by sprinting out on a 9-2 run to take biggest lead of the day for either side to that point, 31-20.  

TCU maintained a double-digit advantage up until the halftime buzzer when Coleman sunk a tough step back three at horn to make it 36-27 as the ‘Bows went to the locker rooms trailing by nine. 

Much like the matchup against Georgia Tech, Hawai’i started the second half out flat, allowing TCU to score the first four points back in play before Coleman drove the baseline and got it to go to get the ‘Bows back on track for a moment. The Horned Frogs would up the lead to 15 with just over 11 minutes remaining after Peavy put back a TCU miss, but a Juan Munoz-triple sparked some energy inside Stan Sheriff Center as the ‘Bows attempted to make another double-digit second half comeback — though this time without the services of starting guard and all-Big West preseason selection JoVon McClanahan, who reportedly could not finish the game due to an ailment.  

“Obviously, Jovon couldn’t go. He tried to give it a go early in the second half because he’s like that but you could tell he wasn’t the same, so we have to be smart about that,” Hawai’i head coach Eran Ganot told the media following the contest. 

Hawai’i was able to bring it within single digits for the first time since the opening minutes of the second half after Ryan Rapp got a nice layup in traffic to go down with 4:59 left to play, making it 57-48, but that would be the closest UH would get. 

TCU’s Trevian Tennyson’s first points of the second half pushed the visitors’ lead up to 15 once again with just over two minutes remaining and a pair of Jameer Nelson Jr. makes from the free throw line made it 64-48. Hawai’i’s Tom Beattie knocked down a three-pointer just before time expired to end a near-five minute scoring drought to close out the game, falling 64-51.  

TCU was led by Jameer Nelson Jr’s 13 points on 3-of-6 shooting from the floor and a 6-for-6 performance from the free throw line, scoring 10 in the second half to help the Frogs maintain a comfortable lead throughout the afternoon. Tennyson also finished in double-figures with 10 points in the win for TCU, who heads to home for a date with Texas A&M-Commerce on New Years’ Day before opening up conference play against #2 Kansas on January 6. 

Hawai’i was led by Noel Coleman’s 19 points as the senior was the only Rainbow Warrior to eclipse 10 points in the contest. UH was held to 33% shooting from the floor overall and just 6-for-25 from long range in the final game of the non-conference schedule for the ‘Bows. Juan Munoz was the only other Rainbow Warrior to make more than two field goals, finishing with nine points on three makes from long range.  

“Disappointing. Give TCU credit, they did a great job,” Ganot said postgame. “[TCU’s] effort, their defense bothered us a bit quite a bit. I thought it was a slugfest most of the game.” 

The ‘Bows will return to action on December 30, opening conference play by hosting Cal State Fullerton at SimpliFi Arena inside Stan Sheriff Center. The Titans ended Hawai’i’s season in 2022-23, eliminating the ‘Bows in overtime in the Big West Tournament quarterfinals. 

Georgia Tech fights off Hawai’i, advances to 2023 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic Championship

Georgia Tech fights off Hawai’i, advances to 2023 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic Championship

Georgia Tech fights off Hawai’i, advances to 2023 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic Championship

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED DEC 22, 2023

HONOLULU — There will be no repeat holiday magic in Mānoa this year. 

The Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors men’s basketball team (8-3), entering the 14th annual Diamond Head Classic for the first time as defending champions, fell inside SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center for the second time all season as the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-3) held off a furious ‘Bows second half comeback on Friday night, 73-68, in the semifinal round of the holiday tournament. 

Tech opened the game scoring the first six points before UH’s JoVon McClanahan drilled a three-pointer from top of the key as shot clock expired to get Hawai’i on the board two and a half minutes into the game. The visitors pushed it to a 10-3 lead before a four-point play from McClanahan made it a one-possession game once again as his Rainbow Warrior teammates struggled to score. 

“That’s a great team, give a lot of credit first,” Hawai’i head coach Eran Ganot said postgame. “I think [Georgia Tech] came out ready to roll. I’m surprised we didn’t [come out ready].” 

For the second consecutive night, Hawai’i would face some shooting woes in the first half as deficit grew to 11 before back-to-back Mor Seck buckets down low started to wake up the offense as the clock ticked under nine minutes remaining in the opening half. Hawai’i’s comeback effort continued with a right-wing triple from McKoy, cutting the deficit to six with his first points of the night with 7:23 left ahead of halftime. 

Georgia Tech recovered to push the lead back to 12 as the game clock ticked under six minutes remaining in the half before it looked like it was time for the reigning tournament MVP to take over. McClanahan, with a re-ignited vigor, quickly responded with two straight buckets of his own, then found McKoy in rhythm in the left corner to cut it to seven again with 3:29 left in the half.  

Following the final media timeout of opening 20, the ACC representatives would knock down back-to-back three-pointers and used a Baye Ndongo transition finish to snag a 16-point halftime lead over the tournament hosts, 43-27. The 27 points at the break were a season low for Hawai’i.  

“The big thing was the way that we finished the half. I think, and give [Georgia Tech] credit, they took the physicality to us from the start of the game, and we let that affect us in a way that we had lapses. We do not have many lapses,” Ganot said of his team’s first half performance.  

Things didn’t look much better immediately out of the locker room as the Tech lead grew to larger than 20 after Yellow Jackets’ forward Tafara Gapare blasted home a fast break slam just three minutes into the second half. The under-16 media timeout stopped play before the free throw of an and-one chance for UH’s Bernardo de Silva with the ‘Bows trailing by 19. 

That’s when the Rainbow Warriors decided to flip the game on its head for a bit. 

Matthew Cotton, who led Hawai’i with 15 points in Thursday’s opening round victory over Portland, dropped in his first bucket of the night by connecting from long range on the right wing to start the “Rainbow Avalanche” and was followed by a McKoy put back to start turning up the heat for a UH comeback.  

The pressure temperature only raised higher for Georgia Tech as the ‘Bows cut the lead to 10 with 13:22 left to play after a pair of de Silva free throw makes and UH made it single digits with a crafty Tom Beattie reverse layup. 

Following under-12 media timeout, Hawai’i would force a GA Tech shot clock violation, only increasing the noise inside the Stan Sheriff Center. It soon would match the night’s peak volume as Hawai’i reserve forward Harry Rouhliadeff scored six consecutive points with an and-one and right-wing triple to make it a one-possession game, 52-50, for the first time since early in the opening minutes of play.  

Juan Munoz brought the ‘Bows within one with a layup with seven minutes left and again sliced the Georgia Tech lead to a single point with two free throws at the 6:01 mark. Hawai’i finally would take the team’s first (and only) lead of the night with 4:35 left in regulation behind two free throw makes from de Silva.  

The Yellow Jackets quickly answered with four points of their own, giving the ACC squad a three-point lead with 3:38 left and forcing a Hawai’i timeout. 

Georgia Tech maintained a four-point lead following a 1-for-2 trip to the charity stripe for the Yellow Jackets’ Naithan George with 2:37 left before a Miles Kelly finish at the rim pushed it to a six-point advantage for Tech with under a minute remaining. 

Down to their final breath, the ‘Bows continued to battle as a de Silva and-one made it a one possession game with 45 seconds left in regulation but were unable to get a stop on the other end as Kelly dropped one in from inside the lane once again to give GA Tech breathing room with 34 seconds on the clock. 

McClanahan looked to give Hawai’i one last lifeline with an and-one opportunity of his own to potentially cut it to a two-point deficit with 10 seconds left, but the ensuing free throw came up a hair short and was rebounded by the Yellow Jackets as the ‘Bows fell, 73-68. 

“There was a loose ball there late, a miscommunication late, and good teams will make you pay, and they did,” said Ganot, reflecting on the semifinal ending. “Like I said, very disappointed in the first half but very proud of our guys’ effort. [It’s] part of the journey, we’ll get back to work.” 

Georgia Tech’s Baye Ndongo finished with a game-best 22 points on 10-of-12 shooting from the floor while chipping in 12 rebounds (six offensive) before fouling out late in the win for the Yellow Jackets. Tech out-rebounded Hawai’i, 46-28, and dominated the offensive glass, snagging 15 extra opportunities from misses throughout the night. 

Hawai’i’s McClanahan finished with season bests in points (19) and assists (8) in the loss, doing everything he could to try and return the ‘Bows to the title game for back-to-back seasons for the first time in the event’s 14-year history. 

“It’s tough,” McClanahan said of the emotions of the back-and-forth contest. “I feel like I’ve been in a lot of games like that and so have some of our guys… and we had an incredible crowd to bring us back with our poise and trusting each other. It is tough to come back and fight that hard and come up short, you know what I mean? Especially in a tournament like this when we definitely had a chance to go to the championship and defend our title.” 

UH forward Bernardo de Silva finished with 17 points and five rebounds while fellow forward Justin McKoy ended the game with 11 points and seven boards in the valiant — but ultimately fruitless — comeback try for Hawai’i. 

“It happens, it’s basketball — we are learning from it. I like our team a lot and I think a lot of people like our team,” McClanahan continued postgame. “We’ve just got more little things to clean up and we’ll be fine.” 

Hawai’i will get an opportunity to clean up those little things on Christmas Eve when they take on the TCU Horned Frogs (9-2) in the 2023 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic third-place game at 1:30 p.m. at SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center.