Hawaii makes history with upset of California

By The Sports Xchange  |  March 19, 2016 at 3:54 AM
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SPOKANE, Wash. -- Hawaii coach Eran Ganot talked about his reverence for the history and tradition of Rainbow Warriors' basketball while on the interview podium Friday following his team's 77-66 upset of fourth-seeded California in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

What almost went unsaid is that, for all of Ganot's respect for the past achievements, his 13th-seeded Rainbow Warriors likely provided the program its biggest moment ever in handling the talent-stacked but short-handed Golden Bears mostly from start to finish.

The Rainbow Warriors will look for another upset when they face fifth-seeded Maryland on Sunday.

The win over Cal was Hawaii's first NCAA Tournament win in five trips. The best previous showing was a 10-point loss to Syracuse in 2001.

"What a moment in a year of moments," said Ganot, the team's first-year coach. "These guys just keep giving us more."

Quincy Smith scored 19 points, Roderick Bobbitt added 17 and Stefan Jankovic had 16 to pace the Rainbow Warriors (28-5), who trailed 11-8 just five minutes in, but went on a 10-2 run to establish a lead the Big West Conference champions would nurse most of the first half before building some breathing room in the second.

Cal (23-11) pulled to within a point late in the first half and midway through the second, but the Rainbow Warriors beat the Bears back with the balanced scoring attack. When Mike Thomas hit a 3-pointer with 6:11 to play, the lead that had been trimmed to a single point with 11:57 to go was extended to 11 and Hawaii was on its way to a berth in the Round of 32 against either Maryland or South Dakota State.

Ganot said he kept it simple when his team looked like it was starting to slide. He said that, during a timeout, he wrote a single-word of instruction to his team: solid.

"You have to be solid. That's what got us to this point," he said. "You just have to be solid. I was really proud of how we handled that because, when the momentum shifted, you have to respond. It wasn't a magic formula. It was just solid."

On the other bench, Cal coach Cuonzo Martin could appreciate that approach as the Golden Bears were searching for anything solid. The week started with the dismissal of assistant coach Yann Hufnagel over sexual harassment allegations and the team was playing without starting point guard Tyrone Wallace. The team's leading scorer suffered a broken hand in practice earlier in the week.

Guard Jabari Bird, averaging 10.4 points per game entering the tournament, also did not play because of back spasms that Martin said he did not know about until just a couple of minutes before tip-off when he said the junior guard told him he couldn't play.

"It was tough, but you still have enough to win the game, so no excuses," Martin said.

The Golden Bears then did themselves no favors in the first half, struggling with turnovers and foul trouble, most notably to first-team All-Pac-12 post Jaylen Brown, who picked up his third foul with 4:48 to play in the first half in which he played just nine minutes. Point guard Sam Singer, starting in place of Wallace, said Brown's issues played a significant role in the outcome.

"It definitely affected us," Singer said. "You have to guard him. Not having him out there let them collapse on (freshman post Ivan Rabb) and forced us to hit outside shots."

Cal couldn't make the connection, making 3 of 19 3-point shots, good for just 15.8 percent.

Brown fouled out with 6:22 to play, having recorded four points, two rebounds and seven turnovers. Jordan Mathews led Cal with 23 points and Rabb had 13 points and 12 rebounds.

Hawaii's Smith, who was 6 of 8 from the floor and 7 of 8 from the free-throw line, said the Rainbow Warriors were aware of Cal's issues.

"We heard a little bit about it on ESPN," he said. "But they still have really good players and coaches and we just wanted to get out there early and set the tone from the start."

Hawaii overcame its own issues in the second half, losing leading scorer Jankovic for 13 minutes to foul trouble.

The ability to deal with those issues, Martin said, is why Hawaii needs to be given all credit for the final result.

"That's a really good win for Hawaii," he said. "I thought they played well as a team. Their guards controlled the game well. They played with passion. They played with energy. They're a fun team to watch."

NOTES: When Brown picked up his fourth foul and found a seat next to Martin with 14:56 to play, Hawaii was about to take a 10-point lead. Instead, the Bears came out fighting, holding Hawaii without a point for the next five minutes and trimming the lead to 47-46. ... Six of the points in that nine-point run were scored by Sam Singer, the junior PG filling in for Wallace. Singer entered the tournament averaging 3.5 points per game. His season-high 12 points marked his first double-digit outing of the year since Nov. 27 and only his second of the season. ... Cal dominated the offensive glass, outrebounding the Rainbow Warriors 12-2. ... The No. 4 seed was the highest in program history for Cal, which is expected to lose Jaylen Brown and fellow freshman Ivan Rabb to NBA early entry following this season.

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