Hawaii men’s basketball: Rainbow Warriors soul search after brutal loss to Long Beach State

Hawaii’s Eddie Stansberry drove to the basket as Long Beach State’s Joshua Morgan defended on Wednesday. / Photo by Andrew Lee, Special to the Star-Advertiser

Members of the Hawaii men’s basketball team attempted to give voice to what transpired on the Stan Sheriff Center court some 20 minutes earlier.

No easy feat after the 50-49 loss to last-place Long Beach State.

“We gotta find ourselves, a little bit. We lost our way just a little,” said senior Eddie Stansberry.

“Just lack of togetherness. The whole game we just wasn’t together,” freshman guard Justin Webster summarized.

Maybe most telling, a shaken Eran Ganot said, “We weren’t right today and in a way we got what we deserved.”

UH (14-9, 5-4 Big West) was left searching for answers in the wake of its third straight defeat, one that knocked it down into a three-way tie with UC Santa Barbara and Cal State Northridge, and well back of league leader UC Irvine (8-2), which is assured of remaining in first place no matter what happens when it comes to the Sheriff on Saturday.

That feel-good four-game homestand sweep that featured some spirited comebacks a couple weeks ago suddenly feels very distant.

The Rainbow Warriors defended and rebounded well enough to give themselves a chance — heck, hold someone to 50 and you’re usually well on your way to a win — but the offense was gummed up from the start and never really got better, even when Stansberry tied it up on a 3 with 1:58 left and Webster’s steal and free throws put UH ahead for the first time of the half with 1:06 to go.

The mistakes kept coming.

Point guard Drew Buggs, a game after setting the program career assist record in an overtime loss at Cal Poly, had a brutally tough outing — 0-for-6 from the field, two assists, and five turnovers for the Long Beach native.

The costliest among them was an unforced misfire on a pass to Webster with 34 seconds left in a tie game, which allowed the Beach to drain the clock almost all the way down after a timeout. That led to Buggs’ foul on Michael Carter III’s 18-foot fadeaway shot that allowed the Beach to go up with three seconds left.

“Like any organization or group, when one guy is down, others have to step up,” Ganot said. “And it can’t be all on Drew. He understands the leadership responsibility, and he’s gotta be better. I’m sure he’ll own that and has, just as I am. But we also have a team. So, when that happens again, because it could happen, our whole spirit can’t be dictated by that.”

Webster, to the freshman’s credit, tried to make up for it, even as he was as off the mark (3-for-14) from the field as any ‘Bow. He contributed season highs of nine rebounds and six assists with his 13 points.

“My job is to bring energy every game,” Webster said. “Regardless of what happens, I’m just going to bring energy. Credit Long Beach, they was able to take us out of our game.” He noted LBSU was trapping Buggs on ball screens and shading playmaking forward Zigmars Raimo away from his right hand.

“And we just kept trying to fight, kept trying to fight, but it just wasn’t in our favor tonight.”

LBSU (8-17, 3-6) picked up its first win at the Sheriff since 2016. It came in UH’s lowest scoring output since a 71-45 loss to Illinois State in the 2016 Diamond Head Classic. It was the second-lowest output of the Ganot era.

Ganot, who appeared about as down after a loss as any in his five years at UH, tried to muster some fighting words for his group to rally around in the two full practice days between now and the Irvine game.

“Conviction is 100 percent. If you’re fragile, then you obviously didn’t have a conviction,” Ganot said. “We’re not going to lose that conviction and belief. We may be going through something, but it’s fight or flight. We’d better fight.”


  1. Matt February 13, 2020 8:02 am

    They might as well just give UC Irvine the NCAA berth and go home.

    I just don’t think they can win the BWC tournament in the current condition they’re in. Worse than that, they’ve had two bad losses, and they were by two teams in the bottom of the conference. This team was dinged up with injuries that held them back early on, and it caught up to them big time.

    At this point, I think they should just probably wait until next season and find recruits to replace. If they can find a Stansberry-type player or a good (3 or 4-star) recruit like Bernardo to replace, then this team will be back in business.

    This now feels like a sense of urgency for coach Ganot because this team is repeating the same mistakes like what happened after the 2015-16 season, where they had a losing streak at a certain point, and more importantly, they could end up ousted in the first round of the tournament AGAIN. They gotta fix this problem, and whatever it may be, they better do so quick. At that point, the 2nd place position is pretty much in danger and we could be sinking back to the bottom of the conference.

  2. H-Man February 13, 2020 9:02 am

    Need to have short memory and focus on this Saturday against UC Irvine. Great opportunity on ESPN2.

  3. Aiea 7 February 13, 2020 2:37 pm

    as mentioned from the season start, the bigs were the weakest link of the team and they continue to be. most of their losses are dute to this factor. they maybe tall but they cannot jump, too slow, etc. they will not win the bigwest tournament and not even get an invite to anything. The wahine’s might, they are really doing a great job this year.

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