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’Bows hang tough to beat Titans in overtime

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DARRELL MIHO / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER

Hawaii’s Stefan Jovanovic and Sai Tummala teamed up on Cal State Fullerton’s Khalil Ahmad at Titan Gym in Fullerton, Calif., on Saturday.

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Jan 16, 2016; Fullerton, CA - Titan sandwich. UH Rainbow Warriors Stefan Jovanovic and Sai Tummala play tough defense against CS Fullerton Titan Khalil Ahmad during a game Saturday night at Titan Gym. UH won the game in overtime 86-79

FULLERTON, Calif. >> For Hawaii, revisiting a plateau last seen in 2002 meant surviving attrition Saturday night.

Despite being 26 seconds away from defeat and having two starters foul out, the Rainbow Warriors rallied for an 86-79 overtime victory over Cal State Fullerton in Big West Conference action at Titan Gym.

UH (15-2, 4-0) thus matches the record compiled by the 2001-02 squad after 17 games. That team became the last group of Warriors to reach the NCAA Tournament.

“We’ve been very big in terms of knowing it’s early,” UH coach Eran Ganot said about his players’ current success. “What’s served us well to get to this point is what’s going to serve us well if we do it. That’s the ‘next game’ mentality, taking it a day at a time. I know that sounds cliched, but this team has done a great job with that.”

The Warriors virtually had to take it one second at a time against Fullerton, which nearly earned its first victory against UH in conference play despite its own troubles.

The Titans (8-8, 1-2) dressed only eight players for the game. Tre’ Coggins, the Big West’s second-leading scorer, sat out most of the second half after getting his fourth foul 45 seconds into that half. In the final seconds of regulation, Fullerton put four players on the court with four fouls apiece.

Nevertheless, the Titans’ defense frustrated the visitors, who shot just 33 percent in the first half.

“They got us on our heels,” Ganot said. “One of the things we need to do is to continue to be aggressive against man and zone defenses. We’ve made improvements there, but tonight we went backwards, especially in the first half.

“We were stagnant. There were too many odd plays late in the shot clock because we were playing catch. In the second half, we were more aggressive.”

Isaac Fleming and Stefan Jankovic benefited most. In his second start of the season, Fleming made four of six shots from 3-point range and scored 16 of his career-best 23 points in the half.

Jankovic responded with 21 points in the second half and overtime — including the Warriors’ biggest basket in regulation — after being held scoreless in the first half.

The Warriors shot 58 percent in the second half. But Fullerton responded by making 54 percent of its shots and by recovering from a five-point deficit to take a 71-67 lead with 26.1 seconds remaining in regulation.

However, Coggins fouled out with 15.3 seconds left. UH’s Sai Tummala made both ensuing free throws to narrow the margin to 71-69. Then after the Titans’ Kennedy Esume converted the second of two foul shots with 5.3 seconds to go, Jankovic made his biggest impact.

The 6-foot-11 junior made a long 3-point shot with three seconds left to force a 72-72 tie.

In overtime, UH took early control by exploiting two turnovers. Fleming stole a pass intended for Fullerton’s Jamar Akoh, got fouled and made both free throws 48 seconds into the extra period.

Quincy Smith followed with another steal on the Titans’ next possession. That steal resulted in two free throws from Jankovic, and UH held a 76-72 lead 1:35 into overtime.

Fullerton drew within 82-79 with 50 seconds to play, but Tummala and Roderick Bobbitt each made a pair of foul shots to ensure the win. UH made all 12 of its free throws in overtime.

Bobbitt added 14 points, six assists and three steals. Freshman Khalil Ahmad led five Titans in double figures with 19 points. Lionheart Leslie, Fullerton’s 5-foot-10 point guard, grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds and scored 17 points.

14 responses to “’Bows hang tough to beat Titans in overtime”

  1. Bdpapa says:

    Sounds like UH had an edge on Fullerton down the stretch with so many Titan players in foul trouble. But a win is a win! Get on the plane and get home, get ready for the next game!

  2. mctruck says:

    Coaches should get an applause for keeping the players focused for this win; Big guy-Jankovic turned in a stellar performance in the 2nd half to win. Everybody knew what was at steak and did an excellent job.

  3. oxtail01 says:

    Another good win, especially on the road where UH historically have problems winning even against bad teams. Ganot has proven to be a superior coach and as his resume gets filled with more wins, it’ll be nearly impossible for UH to retain him after couple more years. That’s not a bad thing as only way UH can maintain competiveness at their level is to establish a reputation as a launchpad for talented young coaches in a desirable environment. We should never chase “experienced” old coaches in any sports at exorbitant salaries. We need to jettison present coaches that command high salaries in money losing sports who’ve topped out in performance, especially coaches like Trapasso. Furthermore, UH needs to set the way for Shoji’s departure, which I hope is sooner than later.

  4. entrkn says:

    ROAD WARRIORS!

  5. Bumby says:

    7 of the top 8 rotation players were recruited by the former coaching staff. Ganot has done an excellent job till now in molding these players and garner the success they deserve. The key to his success will be the ability to continue to bring in players that are able to compete. We will all know that answer after the team is made up of all his recruits. Wish him and the program continued success.

  6. roughrider says:

    Like the discipline and structure that Ganot has instilled in this team. But, as even Ganot has said, players make coaches look good and the jury’s still out on his ability to recruit. What’s more, if UH doesn’t win its appeal of the postseason ban and there’s a mass exodus after the season, the roster will be left in shambles. Guess they could go with a five-guard lineup!

  7. den says:

    they were very lucky to win that game.

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