The University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team made a valiant comeback before eventually falling to Cal State Fullerton, 67-64, in the Big West opener for both teams Thursday night at Titan Gym.
UH nearly erased a 13-point deficit in the final nine minutes of the game and had a chance to send the game into overtime down three on the final possession in regulation. However, Leland Green’s contested three-point attempt went off the mark as time expired.
Making a Southern California homecoming, Green led a balanced UH attack with a career-high 12 points. Brocke Stepteau added 11 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Gibson Johnson had 11 points and eight rebounds, while Sheriff Drammeh finished with 10.
The ‘Bows were ultimately undone by a miserable shooting night. UH shot just 34 percent from the floor, including 4-of-21 (19 percent) from three-point range.
The Titans (7-7, 1-0 Big West) won for the fourth time in the last five games while snapping UH’s modest two-game win streak. The loss marked UH’s first-ever against CSF in the last 11 meetings and first-ever to CSF since joining the Big West in 2013.
Playing their first road game of the year, the Rainbow Warriors (6-8, 0-1 Big West) showed no jitters and got off to a hot start taking a 15-5 lead early on. CSF responded with a 16-4 run to take the lead and clung to a two-point advantage at the break. The ‘Bows shot just 26 percent in the first 20 minutes, but their defense kept them in the game by forcing 12 Titan turnovers.
A 10-0 run gave Fullerton its biggest lead, 50-37, midway through the second half. But UH refused to fold and continued to chip away to set up the game’s final close finish.
Lionheart Leslie led CSF with 14 points. Saddled by foul trouble, the league’s top scorer Tre Coggins (20.4 ppg), was limited to just seven points by UH.
The Rainbow Warriors next head to UC Irvine to face an Anteater. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. PT/5:30 p.m. HT at the Bren Events Center.