Gameday: Big West tournament quarterfinals
It all comes down to this.
Can Hawaii begin to exorcise a decade-plus of futility in conference tournaments by getting past Long Beach State in the Big West quarterfinals on Thursday at the Honda Center? It gets all the more complicated when you consider what might lie beyond for these coaches and players.
On paper, this one looks like a coin toss. Of course, paper is not where things are decided.
UH is at full health and has some fairly fresh memories of blowing out the 49ers by 19 points at the Stan Sheriff Center on Feb. 26. At the same time, UH was held to its lowest point total of the season in a 65-50 defeat at LBSU’s Pyramid on Jan. 31.
Both times, it was UH that got off to an early lead with some effective pressure. In the loss at LBSU, some UH players said they became “selfish” as a team and thus lost their lead by halftime.
Both teams are at full health or very close to it. For Hawaii, Isaac Fleming and Mike Thomas estimated themselves around 90 percent of full health.
UH is going with the starting lineup of Roderick Bobbitt, Garrett Nevels, Aaron Valdes, Negus Webster-Chan and Stefan Jankovic.
In the first game of the day, top-seeded UC Davis came back from a 13-point first-half deficit and rallied past No. 8 Cal State Northridge 71-67. The Aggies got off to a slow shooting start, but rallied with 66.7 percent shooting in the second half to finish at 56.1 percent for the game. Forward Josh Ritchart was key, hitting five of six 3-point looks for 21 points. Player of the Year Corey Hawkins struggled early but closed strong with 15 points.
After UH’s 79-72 win over Long Beach State in the second quarterfinal, UC Riverside gave third-seeded UC Irvine quite a battle. It featured a SportsCenter-worthy posterization of UCI’s 7-foot-6 center Mamamdou Ndiaye by Highlanders forward Taylor Johns. But the Anteaters got the last word and prevailed 63-54.
The nightcap between No. 2 UC Santa Barbara and No. 7 Cal Poly would settle the semifinal brackets. Cal Poly managed to muck up the game and slow things down like it normally does, but the Mustangs could not recapture their 7-seed magic from last season which saw them rout UCSB in the first round en route to an improbable Big West championship. Michael Bryson made a game-saving block on a take to the basket by Ridge Shipley and the Gauchos held on to win, 54-50.
That meant that with the reseeding, No. 1 UC Davis takes on No. 5 Hawaii at 3:30 p.m. (HST) in the first men’s semifinal. The evenly matched Nos. 2 and 3, Irvine and Santa Barbara, will tussle in the nightcap.
Men’s b-ball Warriors = winnahs today!!!! Bring on Davis!!!!!
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