The Hawaii basketball team lost to Cal State Fullerton for the first time as a Big West Conference member, 67-64 today at Titan Gym in Fullerton, Calif.
It was the first road and Big West game of the season for UH (6-8, 0-1), which shot just 34.4 percent from the field. It snapped a 10-game winning streak against Fullerton (7-7, 1-0).
Freshman guard Leland Green scored a season-high 12 points in the loss. Brocke Stepteau added 11 points, eight rebounds and five assists for UH, Gibson Johnson had 11 points and eight boards, and Sheriff Drammeh added 10 points.
One-time top scoring option Noah Allen continued to struggle, going 0-for-6 from the field for two points off the bench. Despite that, defending Big West champion UH rallied from a late 12-point deficit. Green had a heavily contested, tying 3-point attempt, but it drifted wide of the basket at the buzzer.
BWC leading scorer Tre’ Coggins (20.4 ppg) was held scoreless until 8:36 remained in the game and finished with seven points for Fullerton. Guard Lionheart Leslie led the Titans with 14 points.
UH led 15-5 early on a corner 3 by Green. Meanwhile, Coggins picked up his second foul and hit the bench for the rest of the half.
The early momentum wouldn’t last. UH struggled mightily from the field — 25.7 percent in the period — as the Titans rallied to take a 30-28 halftime lead despite committing 12 turnovers to that point.
CSF opened the second half with an 8-2 run, forcing a UH timeout when 7-footer Darcy Malone slam-dunked.
Jack Purchase found Zigmars Raimo inside for a second-chance basket, cutting it to 40-37.
Fullerton went to the interior and scored 10 straight, pushing the lead to 13. The hosts outscored UH 42-28 in the paint.
Purchase ended the run with a three-point play with nine minutes left, making it 50-40. Purchase hurt his right ankle on the basket but kept playing.
Jackson Rowe made a layup for a 58-46 Fullerton lead. Stepteau countered with a basket, and-1, to cut it to single digits with 5:36 remaining. Green and Johnson each made a free throw to make it a seven-point game with 4:27 left.
Fullerton expanded its lead back as high as 12 before Purchase hit a deep 3 with 2:08 left to keep hope alive at 65-58. Green converted a tough drive, while being fouled, to make it a five-point game but missed at the stripe.
In the final minute, Davon Clare missed two at the line for CSF, and Stepteau made a floater to cut it to 67-64. Fullerton drained clock and Coggins missed a contested shot with 12 seconds left. Green dribbled up to the 3-point arc but had to force a shot over Fullerton defenders at the horn.