A rowdy Titan Gym spurred the Titans on during their homecoming game Saturday, but it wasn’t enough to fend off a second half rally from Hawaii as the Titans were downed 77-75 in a game full of runs.
There was a buzz in the air minutes before the game started as 3,978 fans were singing, chanting, and doing the wave. The attendance was the highest since a February 2009 matchup against Long Beach State. It was an environment fit for a championship game and the team fed off it.
“The atmosphere was great, I think we need that every night,” said senior guard Kwame Vaughn.
Head Coach Andy Newman thought the crowd had a big impact on the game as well.
“It was a tremendous environment and it really helped our guys a lot,” Newman said. “If the crowd wasn’t there we would lose this game by 15-20 points.”
The first half started with a quick tempo which favored the Titans as they raced out to a 13-6 lead. That quickly evaporated as the Warriors took a 33-23 lead with a 20-6 run over an eight-minute stretch. The Titans then went on a 16-2 run of their own over the last four minutes of the first half and took a 39-35 lead to the locker room. Senior guard D.J. Seeley had 10 points and five rebounds and junior forward Deuce Johnson had eight points and five rebounds to lead the Titans at halftime.
During the first 10 minutes of the second half the teams were trading baskets but the Titans were controlling the lead all the way. They even had their largest lead of the game, 12, with 15 minutes remaining in the game. The Titans put out a full effort, exemplified by sophomore guard Alex Harris’ diving play for a loose ball that ended in a gash above Harris’ eye. Harris was ushered to the locker room with trainers trying to stop his bleeding but he returned just four minutes later to a huge roar from the crowd.
But during the final nine minutes, Hawaii switched their defensive scheme and the pace of the game slowed considerably.
“I think we let the zone disrupt us a little bit and slow it down and that caused our aggression to go down,” Vaughn said.
Newman’s fast paced offensive style was not working with the change of game speed and he was unhappy.
“I love playing fast and the second half I didn’t like the tempo very much,” Newman said. “We need to get stops in order to do that and we didn’t get as many as we needed.”
Hawaii went on a 13-2 run over a five-minute stretch, capped off by a 3-pointer by Hauns Brereton with 3:28 remaining to give the Warriors the lead for good. The Titans tried to get back in the game by fouling and hoping for missed free throws, which they got, but Vaughn was sent to the charity stripe twice in the final 12 seconds and split the pair on both occasions.
The Titans had one last shot with 1.1 seconds remaining. Brereton intentionally missed his free throw and Seeley’s full court heave fell short and the Warriors managed to hold on by two points.
The loss extends the team’s losing streak to three and their overall record falls to 11-11 and their conference record to 4-6. Vaughn finished with a game high 19 points and Seeley added 18 points and had team highs of eight rebounds and five assists to pace the Titans. Vander Joaquim had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds and Christian Standhardinger had 18 points and eight rebounds to lead the Warriors.
Newman said the team is going to work on shooting in practice this week after they made only six out of 23 3-pointers. However, Newman was pleased with the ball movement and winning the rebound battle, 38-33.
“I thought ball movement was good. I thought guys played together. I thought guys were penetrating, kicking, really looking for each other. It was a team effort on the offensive end, it was just one of those days when the ball didn’t go through the hoop,” Newman said. “That was a tremendous effort for these guys to come in and out-rebound Hawaii. I was really proud of their effort.”
Their next game is Saturday against UC Riverside at 8 p.m. and will be televised on Fox Sports Prime Ticket.