Hawaii was in a zone in rallying past UC Riverside

Jan. 14—Related Photo Gallery: Hawaii men's basketball beats UC Riverside

The Hawaii basketball team was in the zone in constructing Saturday night's 63-56 victory over UC Riverside in SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center.

A crowd of 3,519 saw the Rainbow Warriors end a four-game losing streak at home while improving to 10-7 overall and 2-3 in the Big West. The Highlanders fell to 7-11 and 2-4.

Freshman guard Barrington Hargress' driving layup gave the Highlanders a 50-47 advantage with 9:08 to play. The 'Bows then went to a 2-3 zone, and Hargress would not score again. The Highlanders missed their next five shots during the 'Bows' ensuing 8-0 run. The 'Bows scored 16 of the final 22 points.

"Our kryptonite was our zone offense," UCR coach Mike Magpayo said. "A lot of teams are going to that. Once (the 'Bows) went to that, our team could not figure out how to score."

The 'Bows tried the zone once in the first half, which resulted in UCR's Nate Pickens burying a 3-point shot.

"I was like, 'Yeah, I don't know if we'll go back to it,'" said UH associate head coach John Montgomery, who also serves as defensive coordinator.

But with Hargress and Pickens attacking the lane, UH decided to go with the zone.

"We really struggled," Montgomery said of the man-to-man coverage in the second half. "Hargress had a great game. He's really fast and athletic and good at getting downhill. We thought we could change it up. And they struggled with it."

With the zone congesting the lane, the Highlanders widened their offense, with little success.

"It definitely broke the rhythm," Magpayo said. "We were scoring until they went to zone, and we could not figure it out. We went through a long scoring drought."

During Friday's video session, the 'Bows noticed the Highlanders struggled against UC Davis' zone. "In the man, not that we weren't guarding them well, but they were hurting us on a few things," UH point guard JoVon McClanahan said. "I think their guards were getting downhill too much."

But UH forward Justin McKoy noted "Plan B" produced steals and rebounds and jump-started the transition breaks.

"We were so active in the zone," said McKoy, who had back-to-back steals during the second-half surge and held UCR forward Kyle Owens to five points on 2-for-6 shooting.

Montgomery said: "We ended up playing with (the zone) the last eight minutes of the game. It really won the game for us. It changed the game for us. We turned them over in the zone. We didn't give up 3-point shots. Even when they attacked, we had guys swarming. Sometimes when you go into a zone, everybody stands around thinking it's a break. Our guys were active and flying around, and that makes a good zone."

McClanahan's drives collapsed the Highlanders' defense and led to passes to open perimeter shooters and free-throw opportunities. Despite playing the final minute with a reddened left eye after being poked, McClanahan hit two free throws to make it 61-55 with 24.8 seconds to play. McClanahan was 6-for-6 from the line.

Noting UH's 18-for-21 free-throw shooting during the postgame news conference, McClanahan told reporters: "Wow. Good job. Clap it up for us."

The 'Bows have been inconsistent in free throws during Big West play. On Saturday, McKoy and centers Bernardo da Silva and Mor Seck were a combined 7-for-7 on free throws.

The 'Bows also received a first-half boost from 6-8 freshman Akira Jacobs, who logged one minute in the first four Big West games. Jacobs sank two 3-point shots in his eight minutes.

"It was good to see it finally go in," Jacobs said. "We got a win. I think that was the biggest thing."