Gameday: at UC Irvine

When Hawaii and UC Irvine met up at the Stan Sheriff Center nine days ago, that was a big game.

This one’s bigger.

If UH (21-3, 10-1 Big West) can overcome a hostile crowd and an Anteaters team hungry for payback, the Rainbow Warriors will have a firm grasp closing in on at least a share of their first regular-season conference championship since 2002. UH would be up a full two games on the rest of the Big West with four games to play.

Irvine (20-7, 9-2) is favored by 3.5 points presently, about three hours before tipoff at the Bren Events Center. It’s expected to be a sellout “Whiteout” crowd approaching 6,000 for the ESPNU-televised game (6:30 p.m. HST tipoff).

“Coach (Russell) Turner’s done a great job building a consistently good program,” UH coach Eran Ganot said Friday. “Obviously the returning champs, playing against a team that had beat them in Game 1. We’re starting to expect that with every game. I think we’re going to try hard in terms of leaning on experience playing on the road, and then playing teams that are ready for us, are excited about it, and being targeted, things like that. You’re talking about two teams at the top of the league right now in terms of the standings.”

Wing Aaron Valdes is described as “probable” for this one after missing Thursday’s contest at Cal State Northridge with an illness. Meanwhile, expect sixth man Isaac Fleming to be more productive in his second game back from his ankle injury.

Point guard Roderick Bobbitt will likely have to produce another monster game against UCI if UH is to prevail. He turned in a nearly flawless performance last time against the Anteaters: 23 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, 0 turnovers. Eighteen of his points came on six 3s.

UH shot the ball to great effect over Irvine’s zone last time. They’ll surely need some of that — perhaps not 14 3s, but some — and the same effective D on the ‘Eaters’ behemoth, Mamadou Ndiaye. Stefan Jankovic staying out of foul trouble will be paramount.

Irvine was fired up after losing to UH in Honolulu, topping 90 points in back-to-back games in routs of CSUN and Cal State Fullerton, giving the Anteaters 20 wins for the fourth straight season. Senior Alex Young was held to seven points at the Stan Sheriff Center, then erupted for a career-high 36 in the next game against CSUN.

Bobbitt needs nine steals to match Tom Henderson (10 to surpass) for the UH career steals record of 160.

UPDATE: UH earned a huge comeback win, 75-71.

Here’s the full breaking/play by play I wrote as the game went.

The Hawaii basketball team moved a step closer to a Big West Conference regular-season championship with a huge 75-71 comeback win at UC Irvine tonight.
UH (22-3, 11-1 BWC) trailed nearly the whole game but closed out the game with a 9-0 run, stunning the host Anteaters (20-8, 9-3) at the Bren Events Center. The Rainbow Warriors earned a season sweep of UCI in the process and moved a full two games up in the conference standings with four games to play.
Forward Stefan Jankovic led the Rainbows with 25 points on 7-for-12 shooting to go with six rebounds. Aaron Valdes added 13 points and six boards, Sai Tummala scored 11 and Mike Thomas 10. Point guard Roderick Bobbitt had seven points, six rebounds, six assists and five steals.
Valdes returned from a one-game illness absence and quickly made his presence felt, slamming home three dunks in the opening minutes of play, including two on lobs from Bobbitt.
UH led briefly at the outset, but could not maintain the lead at 10-9.
Luke Nelson (team-high 18 points) hit a wing 3 to give Irvine a 30-22 lead, eliciting a UH timeout late in the half.
UCI kept the momentum going into halftime, as 7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye (15 points, seven rebounds, three blocks) put down a flat-footed putback dunk to beat the buzzer for a 38-30 UCI lead at the break.
UH got within five points to start the second half, only to see the Anteaters work the ball inside and go up double digits for the first time.
Jankovic hit a corner 3 to end the spurt and Quincy Smith followed with a floater over Ndiaye to get UH within 46-40.
A high-arcing shot by Valdes made it a five-point game with 14 minutes to go.
After a transition slam by UCI’s Jonathan Galloway, Tummala answered with a corner 3-pointer, making him 3-for-3 from long range.
Jankovic made two at the line to get UH within 53-49 with under 12 minutes remaining. Bobbitt followed with another from the stripe to make it a three-point game.
Ndiaye slammed it against UH’s scrambling defense to put the ‘Eaters back up six.
UH countered with a jumper by Sheriff Drammeh and Jankovic hit two at the line to make it 60-58 with 7:56 to go.
Isaac Fleming connected on his only field goal of the game, a corner triple, for UH’s first lead of the period at 61-60.
Irvine recaptured the advantage immediately with a Jaron Martin 3, kicking off an 8-0 run.
Jankovic ended it with a leaner inside with four minutes to go, making it a five-point game. The junior forward inadvertently banked in a 3 then had a reverse layup attempt that could have tied it, but he was off and Tummala fouled out at the other end.
Nelson scored in transition to extend the Irvine lead to 71-66 with two minutes left.
After a critical out of bounds call was reversed and the ball stayed with UH, Jankovic got to the line. He made one of two to cut the deficit to four.
UCI was off on a 3 and Thomas scored in transition with 1:15 to go, getting within 71-69.
Ndiaye traveled and UH worked the ball into the corner to Valdes, who rattled in the go-ahead basket with 33 seconds to go.
Alex Young’s 3-pointer was off the mark and the ball carried out of bounds. The officials ruled it off of Mike Thomas, and Irvine got another chance with 16.6 seconds left.
Luke Nelson missed a 3 and Bobbitt got the rebound and got fouled with 10.7 on the clock. He calmly stepped to the line and made both foul shots for a 74-71 lead.
Jaron Martin’s step-back 3-pointer was off the mark, Thomas secured the rebound and made one of two at the line to clinch the victory with 0.7 seconds left.


  1. oneseason February 20, 2016 9:03 pm

    Wow … exciting win.

  2. cappie the dog February 20, 2016 9:25 pm

    What is the point of replay?

    I thought it was relatively conclusive that the UC-Irvine player touched the ball last.

    Mike, who let it go, should have sold it better.

    But despite the referee bias, Hawaii still wins, and hopefully people on the mainland noticed.

    C’mon, Dickie V. Vote for us. I always defend you from the Internet trolls. You too Dana O’Neil.

    Hawaii now has twenty victories against Division I opponents.

    I’m excited, but it’s tempered excitement.

    There is still no error for margin.

    They have to win out, because our coach scheduled Montana State, Nicholls State, Arkansas Pine-Bluff, Mississippi Valley State and Howard.

    Hawaii-Hilo beat Montana State.

  3. Brian McInnis February 20, 2016 9:41 pm

    Montana State actually survived a scare from Hilo, but yes, the strength of schedule left something to be desired.

  4. oldtimer808 February 20, 2016 11:25 pm

    We shouldn’t have to worry about strength of schedule at this poinyt in the season. Just continue to play hard and smart and win out the regular season and tournament and make a statement in the NCAA tournament. Bobbit just needs 5 more steals to beat out Tom Henderson.

  5. cappie the dog February 20, 2016 11:27 pm

    Aah, a little hyperbole on my part.

    I’m like Fox News. Distorting the truth to fit my argument.

    Do you think Stefan Jankovic put himself in contention to be on some publication’s third-team All-American?

    Have you ever met Chad Ford in the context of the ESPN draft guru actually evaluating one of Hawaii’s players?

    Jankovic is a potential late second round draft pick, right?

    And this is a general question to anybody who may be reading this.

    Am I the only person who is fascinated that Chad Ford, Professor Ford, teaches at BYUH? I mention this to people at work and am always disappointed by their indifference.

  6. cappie the dog February 20, 2016 11:30 pm


    You’re right.

    At the very least, as the regular season champion, Hawaii gets to play in the NIT.

    People don’t realize that playing in the NIT is kind of a big deal now.

    Seeding and an actual bracket makes it a legitimate tournament.

  7. Hoosier February 21, 2016 9:12 am

    Love to hear coach Ganot give all credit to the guys. All the naysayers about his hire seem to be very quiet nowadays. Kudos to all involved for exciting play and bringing fans back into SSC!

  8. rabbit ears February 21, 2016 9:38 am

    way to go warriors!!!!!!

  9. Actual Counselor February 21, 2016 9:42 am

    Hoosier: At the same time, though, these are all Gib Arnold’s players, for the most part.

    Cappie: The NIT would be nice, especially since UH hasn’t been to any legit postseason tournament probably since the Riley Wallace era. But the NIT is nowhere near the prestige of the NCAA tournament. Not even close.

  10. pukalani boy February 21, 2016 11:41 am

    Big win yay!! Mahalo 4 bringing excitement 2 Hawaii fans…

  11. ALLAN February 21, 2016 12:19 pm


  12. locomoco February 21, 2016 3:37 pm

    Absolutely correct that these are Fib Arnold’s players.
    But does anyone think that the Fibber or Benji could have the team playing this way? No way.

  13. Actual Counselor February 21, 2016 7:10 pm

    locomoco: they were on the verge last year of being special last year. if gib was still coaching, i think this UH would’ve been just as successful. this team would’ve been monstrous with isaac fotu.

    oh well.

    i think ganot is doing a good job with the players he inherited. I want to see how the team is in two or three years when ganot has all of his players. although if the NCAA postseason ban is upheld and all the juniors this year leave, UH is going to field a team of all freshmen guards next year, with the best player being sherrif dramae (who i’m not a fan of), and all the momentum built for UH basketball could come to a screeching halt.

  14. cappie the dog February 21, 2016 8:28 pm


    Under Gib Arnold, I think Mike Thomas would be sitting on the end of the bench. I credit Benjy Taylor for turning himself into something that Coach Ganot can work with.

    That late layup against UC-Irvine almost brought a tear to my eye.

    I have to stop making fun of him. Thomas plays hard.

    Arnold was borderline sociopathic in his substitution patterns.

    I think Coach Ganot would have developed Douglas Kurtz. And especially, Manroop Clair, who is putting up decent numbers at Seattle U.

    He never learned to play because Arnold would keep yanking him off the court everytime he did something wrong.

    Laura Beeman, like Ganot, gives their players a longer leash. And Beeman was rewarded with her patience when Karaitiana hit that game-winning three on the road.

  15. pochoboy February 22, 2016 5:46 am

    Let’s Go Bows! Let’s Go Bows! Let’s Go Bows!

  16. rabbit ears February 22, 2016 8:05 am

    Kurtz was too slow. Cannot develop lack of quickness very much.

  17. pochoboy February 22, 2016 9:32 am

    Let’s Go Bows! Let’s Go Bows!

  18. Hoosier February 22, 2016 12:54 pm

    No sure thing all players would still be here with Gib as coach. Based on his track record two or three of theses players would be outta here by now. That was Gib’s trademark. Bring em in and move em out. And as I recall Gib’s teams would be fading away at this time of year.

  19. cappie the dog February 22, 2016 2:48 pm Mid-Major Poll is late.

    I found another mid-major poll.

    College Court Report has Hawaii ranked #4, behind St. Mary’s, Arkansas Little-Rock and Valparaiso.

    Again, I’m glad that Hawaii remains unranked.

    You never know how a team will play when they lose a player. Maybe it’s addition by subtraction with UC-Riverside dismissing leading scorer Taylor Johns from the team. I’d rather play Riverside with Johns.

  20. H-Man February 22, 2016 3:16 pm

    Cappie, I agree with your perception of the longer leash, especially regarding Breeman’s patience with Karaitiana. I was waiting for Beeman to pull her, but instead she stuck with her and it paid off. Ganot seems to have the same sense of using his players with the right timing and mix.

  21. cappie the dog February 22, 2016 7:09 pm

    The two hugged at the end of the game.

    Karaitiana misses a lot of shots.

    But she has to keep shooting.

    By default, she is their three-point specialist.

    I keep hoping that at some point, something will click, the muscle memory will remember her pretty great sophmore season(39-105 from 3), and more shots can find the bottom of the net.

    Huff, if she’s not double-teamed, will beat her man.

    There is a polish to her made baskets.

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