ANAHEIM, CALIF. >> A massive first-half deficit was too much for Hawaii to overcome in its first Big West tournament game, as the fifth-seeded Rainbow Warriors fell 71-60 to fourth-seeded UC Irvine today.
A split-allegiance crowd of about 2,000 at the Honda Center saw UH get to within 10 in the second half after facing a 22-point halftime deficit. That tied UH’s largest amount down at the break this season.
Despite having several opportunities thanks to a stepped-up defensive effort in the period, UH (17-14) could not get the deficit back to single digits.
The loss likely spelled the end of the season for the Rainbow Warriors. UH athletic director Ben Jay said before the game that participation in the pay-for-play CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament was unlikely, but he would not rule it out.
"We were pretty much set on winning this thing," UH coach Gib Arnold said. "We haven’t talked about anything else."
UH dropped its third straight game for the first time this season, and lost its eighth conference tournament game in its last nine going back to 2005.
UCI (19-14) improved to 2-1 against UH this season after the teams split two close meetings home-and-home. The Anteaters advanced to face top-seeded Long Beach State in Friday’s semifinals.
Senior swingman Hauns Brereton fouled out with 18 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Senior center Vander Joaquim had 18 points ? 16 in the second half ? and six rebounds. Junior forward Christian Standhardinger added 11 points. All of senior point guard Jace Tavita’s six assists came after halftime.
That was not enough to overcome six UCI players in double-figure scoring.
After getting hammered early and looking out of sorts, the ‘Bows finally made a game of it to open the second half, going on an 11-0 run to cut the deficit in half.
UCI point guard Alex Young scored on a driving layup to end the run more than four minutes into the period.
UH got to within 10 on an elbow jumper by Joaquim. The Anteaters went back up by 15, but this time the ‘Bows didn’t fold, getting back within 10 on a hook shot by Joaquim.
Daman Starring hit a contested, leaning deep 3 at the end of the shot clock with five minutes left to extend the UCI lead to 14. The closest UH got from there was 11.
UH couldn’t hit 3-pointers to catch up, going 4-for-18 (22.2 percent) for the game. It shot 34.9 percent overall to UCI’s 40.4 percent.
Will Davis II, the Big West Defensive Player of the Year, frustrated Joaquim down low in the first half.
UCI shot 14-for-24 (58.3 percent) to UH’s 9-for-34 (26.5 percent) in the first half to take a 44-22 lead at the break.