ANAHEIM, CALIF. >> Long Beach State uncorked a huge late run to break open a tied game and dealt the Hawaii basketball team a 73-62 loss in the opening round of the Big West tournament, ending the Rainbow Warriors’ season.
LBSU turned to its frontcourt physicality during a 19-2 stretch to turn back the ’Bows for the second time in six days. Fifth-seeded UH (14-16) struggled with its depth and size issues against fourth-seeded LBSU (15-18), which advanced to face top-seeded UC Irvine in Friday’s semifinals.
UH, the defending tournament champion, didn’t know it’d be playing at the Honda Center until last Friday.
Senior wing Noah Allen closed his one-year UH career with 21 points on 7-for-14 shooting. Gibson Johnson converted his first five shots and finished with 18 points on 8-for-13 shooting, but they were the only UH players in double figures.
Forward Jack Purchase was considered questionable to play after rolling his right ankle in last Saturday’s nine-point loss at LBSU, but he took his usual place in the starting lineup. He scored two points in 25 minutes.
UH’s shooting cooled as the game progressed (5-for-17, 29.4 percent on 3s, and 38.3 percent overall), while LBSU heated up to finish at 53.1 percent overall.
Beach point guard Justin Bibbins scored 19 of his 27 points in the first half and finished shooting 8-for-12 from the field and 9-for-9 from the line, while dealing six assists.
Power forward Temidayo Yussuf scored 23 points on 9-for-9 shooting against UH at the Walter Pyramid. He was contained to nine points and eight rebounds, but surprise starter Barry Ogalue capitalized on putbacks for a 16-point, 7-for-7 night.
UH claimed an early six-point lead but was forced to turn to its second unit to hang with LBSU because of foul trouble.
Brocke Stepteau and Sheriff Drammeh picked up their second fouls with 3:51 left in the half and UH trailing 25-24, meaning Matthew Owies had to run the show.
Allen got a steal on the run, fumbled it but received the ball back from Owies for a 3, tying it at 27. He stuck a reverse layup then hit another 3 for a 32-29 UH lead. His two free throws gave him 10 straight points for his team.
Bibbins hit a long 2, and-1 — making him 6-for-7 in the period — but Johnson got to the line with a second left in the half and went 1-for-2 for a 35-33 lead at intermission.
Drammeh airballed a 3 and LBSU scored in transition to open the second half.
Stepteau and Drammeh picked up their third fouls and the 49ers opened up a 44-39 lead on Ogalue’s putback. Leland Green picked up two in a matter of seconds and exited with four with 13 minutes left.
Drammeh swished a wing 3 to bring UH within 49-48 with 11:49 remaining, but then he excited with his fourth foul on a loose ball.
Ogalue dunked it on a fast break for a six-point lead, but UH forced turnovers and surged to tie it at 54 on a fake-and-take by Johnson.
But LBSU responded with force. Ogalue got fouled on a putback attempt to beat the shot clock and made both for a 60-54 49ers lead. Yussuf put back a Bibbins miss and scored on a take to the basket, then Roschon Prince bullied his way to the rim for a 66-55 lead.
Noah Blackwell tacked on a 3 and Bibbins two free throws, while the ‘Bows continued to miss theirs.
Ogalue dunked it on the fast break to for a 17-point lead with two minutes left.