Hawai’i takes rubber match over CSUN, moves into Big West semifinals

Hawai’i takes rubber match over CSUN, moves into Big West semifinals

Hawai’i guard Noel Coleman attacks the rim during a home win over UC Bakersfield. The senior was one of four ‘Bows that scored in double figures in the Rainbow Warriors’ Big West Tournament quarterfinal win over CSUN on March 14. | Photo Credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

Hawai’i takes rubber match over CSUN, moves into Big West semifinals

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED MAR 14, 2024

On to the next one. 

For the second time in three seasons, third-seeded Hawai’i (20-13, 11-9 Big West) advanced into the Big West Tournament semifinals after taking down tenacious seventh-seed CSUN on Thursday night in the Dollar Loan Center in Henderson, Nev., 75-68, for the ‘Bows fourth straight win. 

The Matadors (19-15, 9-11 Big West), who entered the day coming off a late-night overtime victory over Ajay Mitchell and UC Santa Barbara for the program’s first win in the conference tournament in a decade, looked like the team that received the 1st-round bye into the tournament as they scored four of the first five baskets of the game to jump out to an 8-2 lead just five minutes into action. Hawai’i’s offense struggled out the gates, needing to shake off some rust while shooting just 1-for-8 from the floor and committing a pair of turnovers. 

Bernardo de Silva split a pair of free throws before Noel Coleman finally ended the FG drought for the ‘Bows, drilling a 3-pointer from the right side to double UH’s scoring output from the first six minutes with one flick of his left wrist. 

Coleman’s bucket helped see the offense find friction for Hawai’i as Tom Beattie pushed down the floor quickly after for a right-handed layup before Justin McKoy got on the board for the first time in the Big West Tournament twenty seconds later to pull UH within a possession, trailing CSUN 12-10. 

“Early on in the year when we were struggling, teams went on runs and we didn’t respond and stop the bleeding early enough … [At this point of the season] we know to cut the bleeding, go on our own run and respond and I thought we’ve been doing a great job of that as of late and I thought we did it today,” McKoy said, discussing the team’s bounce back from a rough shooting start. 

McKoy, who earned his first career All-Conference team selection earlier this week when he was named 2nd-team All-Big West, strung together five more points in a row for the ‘Bows with a trip to the line and his first triple of the evening before sophomore forward Harry Rouhliadeff made it a new ball game with 8:38 left in the opening half, tying it at 20 with five points. 

Senior guard JoVon McClanahan delivered the ‘Bows first lead since the second possession of the game with his first basket of the night, dancing his way to the cup with 6:20 remaining before halftime. The two sides traded the lead back and forth over the next few minutes before Rouhliadeff hit a pair of free throws and Coleman sunk a close-range bucket to give Hawai’i multi-possession lead for the first time all evening. 

Trouble hit when Rouhliadeff left the game at the 2:23 mark after taking a nasty fall and appearing to hit his head on the ground. The sophomore had chipped in seven points and five rebounds while collecting an emphatic block on defense off the bench before being helped off the floor following the fall. He did not return to the game. 

“I thought that was kind of a microcosm of the year,” Hawai’i head coach Eran Ganot said after the game. “We dealt with adversity all year, we dealt with adversity in the game. Harry had a great first half and went out and he stepped up, [then] we had to step up for him.” 

Freshman forward Akira Jacobs checked in to replace Rouhliadeff for the final two minutes of the half, drilling one from long-distance to push Hawai’i into the locker rooms leading by six, 36-30. 

While the ‘Bows got plenty of help from the youth over the opening 20 minutes, it was the program’s seniors that stepped up to help Hawai’i maintain control throughout the 2nd half. 

Coleman, de Silva and McKoy scored Hawai’i’s first 17 points out of the break, helping the ‘Bows push the lead into double digits before the Matadors were able to string together an 8-0 run to make UH’s lead just 53-51 with under 12 minutes left in regulation. 

Akira Jacobs ended the Hawai’i scoring drought with an easy finish inside off a nice feed from Ryan Rapp to put UH back up four before de Silva sandwiched a Coleman 3-pointer with a couple of layups and Beattie scampered out for a fast-break layup to give the ‘Bows an 8-point lead once again with 5:25 remaining. 

CSUN junior Keonte George would not let the Matadors fade easily, dashing down the floor for back-to-back transition buckets to pull CSUN within a possession a minute and a half after the Rainbow Warriors’ run. Dionte Bostick put one last scare in Hawai’i fans by bringing CSUN within two, 68-66, with 2:35 left but that was the closest that the seventh-seeded Matadors would get the rest of the night. 

Hawai’i iced the game from the line as Coleman, McKoy and de Silva all made foul shots down the stretch to deliver the Rainbow Warriors to victory, 75-68. 

All-Big West 1st-Team selection De’Sean Allen-Eikens led all scorers on the night, pouring in 22 points and nine rebounds, going 9-of-19 from the field in 39 minutes for CSUN. Guard Dionte Bostick added 18 points but went 0-for-4 from 3-point range as the Matadors struggled from distance all night, going 3-of-17 from behind the arc in the loss. 

Hawai’i’s Justin McKoy shook off a poor shooting night to lead the ‘Bows in scoring, dropping 16 points while drilling three triples as four different Rainbow Warriors finished the game in double-figures for points. Bernardo de Silva, who was an All-Big West honorable mention this year, followed closely behind with 14 points and nine boards in the win for the ‘Bows. The 5th-year senior also passed the career 1,000-point threshold in the 2nd half, becoming the second Rainbow Warrior to achieve the feat this year (Coleman). 

“Bernardo has been great all year … [playing with] four fouls and he was able to stay in the game and just defend and I think that defense was huge for us, especially in the paint,” McKoy said of his Brazilian forward’s savvy play down the stretch. 

Noel Coleman and Juan Munoz finished with 12 points and 11 points respectively, hitting a combined five 3-pointers to out-shoot CSUN from long range by themselves. 

Hawai’i advances to Friday’s Big West Tournament semifinals and a date with #2 UC Davis, another program that the ‘Bows split the regular season series with. The Aggies pose a tough challenge, boasting Big West Player of the Year Elijah Pepper alongside a talented supporting cast. UH head coach Eran Ganot was unable to give an update on the status of forward Harry Rouhliadeff’s availability for Friday following the game. 

“We were smart about [his injury] and we’ll get more information. I don’t have any information now, but we’ll get it and provide it and kind of go from there,” Ganot shared. “It was good to be able to get it done without him and step up for him while we figure out his situation.” 

Hawai’i dominated UC Davis back on February 10, 87-70, part of the stark late-season turnaround by the ‘Bows that saw UH go 9-3 over the final 12 games of the regular season. One of those three losses did come when Hawai’i visited UC Davis two and a half weeks later and fell, 75-63. 

“I just think those [earlier] experiences – losing close games early, winning close games late, losing overtime games and then winning overtime games late,” Ganot said postgame. “Sometimes you got to go through it and sometimes you have got to grow from pain, but this group stayed together through all of that.” 

Huge home stand sweep revives Hawai’i men’s basketball’s season

Huge home stand sweep revives Hawai’i men’s basketball’s season

Huge home stand sweep revives Hawai’i men’s basketball’s season

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED FEB 10, 2024

HONOLULU — How about that? 

The University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team downed UC Davis (15-9, 10-3 Big West) on Saturday night, 87-70, to pick up the team’s fourth win in the last five games behind double-doubles from Bernardo de Silva and Justin McKoy and another Noel Coleman masterpiece. 

“Really proud of this team for tonight and this week, and really, leading up to this week,” Hawai’i head coach Eran Ganot expressed postgame. “That was a heckuva team we just played, and we’ve talked about trying to put it together in all three phases… in the context of Thursday, in the context of today, [I] couldn’t be prouder.” 

Hawai’i (14-11, 6-7 Big West) spent the first half of the game unconscious from the field, making 15 out of 21 attempts from the floor including an unfathomable 9-of-11 from distance in the opening half as the ‘Bows worked the lead to double-digits at the break, 45-35. Everyone got in on the fun for UH as the bench poured in 12 points over the opening 20 minutes as freshmen Tom Beattie and Akira Jacobs went a combined 3-of-3 from long range in the period and reserve guard Kody Williams handed out three dimes. 

“We’ve said we’re a good shooting team [so] it was nice to see some breakthroughs,” Ganot said of his team’s scorching shooting performance. “This doesn’t just happen tonight. They’ve been shooting well in practice, shot it well the other night…we’ve still got a long road but hopefully we can build off of this.” 

While the ‘Bows offense cooled off a bit after halftime, the defense turned up the heat as Hawai’i held UC Davis to 8-of-31 shooting from the floor after halftime and a pitiful 2-of-13 from long range on a rare cold night for star backcourt duo Elijah Pepper and Ty Johnson. The Aggies’ backcourt was held to a combined 5-of-19 from the floor in the second half as the Rainbow Warriors dominated the glass for the second straight game. 

“You aren’t going to [completely] hold those guys down, they’re too good. Making them work for everything, making them work on the defensive end and [have the right matchups] … Give our guys credit for really working their tails off,” Ganot said of his team’s second half defensive chops.  

UC Davis was led by Pepper’s 27 points on 25 shots as the guard played nearly 36 minutes of the 40-minute contest. Backcourt duo Ty Johnson ended the night with 15 points and six rebounds in the loss. 

Hawai’i got double-digit performances from four different players as Justin McKoy and Bernardo de Silva recorded double-doubles with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 19 points and 12 rebounds respectively. Noel Coleman, who has been under the weather as of late, poured in another 18 points on an efficient 7-of-12 shooting before fouling out late while freshman Tom Beattie added 11 points off the pine for the ‘Bows. 

“Having been around [Noel] for a long time, it’s been fun to watch him grow and develop and he’s had great moments,” Ganot said of his starting shooting guard. “I said the other day [against UC San Diego] I thought it was his best game in a Rainbow Warrior uniform because you put it all in context… sometimes it takes so much out of you on the offensive end but he’s able to do it offensively, defensively against the best teams and the best schools. [That context]’s why I think you could argue it was his best week in this uniform.” 

After back-to-back wins against the Big West’s 2nd-place program, Hawai’i has suddenly catapulted itself back into the Big West’s top-4 conversation (also thanks in part to UC San Diego’s Division I reclassification period running through this season) as UH sits a game behind CSUN for the fourth seed in the Big West Conference tournament. The ‘Bows now hit the road for a two-game trip against a Cal Poly team that has begun to solve some things as of late and UC Santa Barbara, the program currently tied with Hawai’i on the conference ladder.  

Sweet-shooting Coleman helps Hawai’i shake off slow first half for win over Cal Poly

Sweet-shooting Coleman helps Hawai’i shake off slow first half for win over Cal Poly

Sweet-shooting Coleman helps Hawai’i shake off slow first half for win over Cal Poly

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED JAN 27, 2024

HONOLULU — Man, it feels good to get one. 

The lineup tinkering continued for the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors Saturday night as freshman guard Tom Beattie received his first start of the 2023-24 season, replacing captain JoVon McClanahan in the opening five to round out the new-look three-guard lineup that has shown some success in recent stints for Hawai’i as UH took down visiting Cal Poly, 83-73. Senior guard Noel Coleman led the way for the ‘Bows with 23 points, providing important basket after basket throughout the second half. 

The Rainbow Warriors (11-10, 3-6 Big West) started off slowly on offense against Cal Poly (4-17, 0-9 Big West) as the new lineup attempted to mesh, scoring just two points on a Justin McKoy spinning layup in the game’s first four minutes. The defense of UH, though, gave up just three points of their own as the game hit the first media timeout. 

Following the break in the action, Hawai’i snapped off a speedy 6-0 run with defense leading to offense to jump up ahead, 8-3. The Mustangs ran back ahead with six straight points of their own as Kobe Sanders hammed home a tomahawk jam, but a left-corner Juan Munoz three-pointer swished on through to give the Rainbow Warriors back the lead with 11:57 left in the opening half of play, 12-9. 

The ‘Bows lead grew to eight after an Akira Jacobs’ right-corner three dropped through to make it 19-11 with 8:35 left in the half, forcing a Cal Poly timeout. The Mustangs responded with their most consistent offense of the first half, closing out the period trading baskets with host Hawai’i before a defensive breakdown left open Cal Poly’s Aiden Prukop for a left-wing three cut it to a three-point UH lead to end the opening 20 minutes, 26-23. 

Hawai’i looked far more focused to open the second half, ripping off a 9-0 run behind the sweet-shooting touch of Noel Coleman before Cal Poly finally got on the board, making it 35-25 in favor of the ‘Bows just under five minutes after the halftime break. 

After trading baskets for the next few possessions, the Mustangs would cut it to a seven-point ‘Bows lead before Beattie found a cutting Jacobs on the baseline and McKoy got a transition layup to drop plus the foul to help UH push the lead up to 14 with less than six minutes to play. McClanahan gave Hawai’i its biggest lead of the game a minute and a half later as he drove all the way to the cup to make it 62-46 and drilled a pair of free throws to make it an 18-point advantage just a few seconds later. It looked like the ‘Bows would prance their way to a blowout win — but Cal Poly wouldn’t let go that easily. 

The Mustangs extended the game’s final four minutes out as long as possible, playing the foul game while hitting tough shots from inside and outside the arc to bring the game as close as seven with 33 seconds left before the ‘Bows closed out the visitors, 83-73. 

Cal Poly was led by senior Kobe Sanders’ double-double, posting a game-best 32 points and 10 rebounds in the loss for the Mustangs. Fellow guard Aiden Prukop poured in 23 points on 4-of-7 shooting from three-point range as Cal Poly remains winless in Big West play. 

UH was led by Noel Coleman’s 23 points, the fourth time this season that the senior has eclipsed 20 or more points for the Rainbow Warriors. McClanahan chipped in 12 points in his new-ish reserve role, going a perfect 6-of-6 from the charity stripe in a game that saw 69 total free throws taken. 

As the team acclimates to life without Mor Seck, the ‘Bows did well to win the points in the paint battle, 32-24, despite losing the rebounding competition and dominated when Cal Poly turned the ball over by scoring 25 points off of 14 Mustang giveaways. On what head coach Eran Ganot has called the worst offensive-rebounding team in recent UH program memory, it’ll continue to be important for the Rainbow Warriors to win on the margins as they look to get back into the thick of the Big West standings. 

Hawai’i hits the road for a massive trip to the continent with games against Cal State Fullerton, who beat the ‘Bows in Honolulu to open the conference schedule, and UC Irvine next Thursday and Saturday.