Second-half slip-up hurts Hawaii in loss to UC Riverside

Feb. 24—UH coach Eran Ganot said it was lapses in the second half, not the final sequence, that determined the outcome.

Point guard Zyon Pullin's 24 points—18 after the intermission—and Hawaii's second-half lapse resulted in UC Riverside's 54-52 victory in SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center on Thursday night.

A crowd of 3, 586 saw the Highlanders overcome an 11-point deficit at the intermission and sidestep the'Bows' late push to remain in second place in the Big West. In missing a chance to move up to second and set up Saturday's showdown against first-place UC Irvine, the'Bows fell to 20-9 overall and 11-6 in the Big West. The Highlanders are 20-10 and 13-5.

The Highlanders led 53-52 when 6-foot-10 freshman Lachlan Olbrich was fouled with 8.4 seconds to play. Olbrich made the first free throw but missed the second.

UH worked for a final shot, but Pullin blocked JoVon McClanahan's attempt out of bounds with 2.3 seconds left.

"We knew he was a good player for them and likes to get into the paint, " the 6-foot-4 Pullin said of the 5-10 McClanahan. "We anticipated that a little bit, and he made a play, and I was able to get the block."

UH's Kamaka Hepa was fouled with 1.5 seconds to play, but he missed the 1-and-1 free throw, and Olbrich grabbed his 10th rebound as time expired.

Rebounding was "all I was focusing on at the time, " Olbrich said. "We hoped he missed and we'd get the rebound. I made sure I boxed out and tried to grab it."

UH coach Eran Ganot said it was lapses in the second half, not the final sequence, that determined the outcome.

"The story of the game was our lack of discipline when we were up 10, which we've had in the past, " Ganot said. "A lot of times we could say it comes down to the last play and all that, but we continue to have these stretches where we're up 10 and we lose our mind."

During a 12-0 UCR run in the second half, Pullin hit a layup and was fouled. He missed the ensuing free throw. Olbrich rebounded and fed Pullin, who buried a 3.

"And now he starts making some tough shots, " Ganot said of Pullin.

Pullin was 8-for-13, including two 3s, in the second half.

The'Bows scored the final 10 points of the first half to take a 25-14 lead into the intermission. The Highlanders were limited to 6-for-31 shooting, including 0-for-10 on 3s, in the first 20 minutes.

"I've been through a lot of these halftimes where our offense is choppy, " said UCR coach Mike Magpayo, noting UH is an "elite " defensive team. "I told them, 'Listen, it's a physical game both ways. They're not going to give us calls. You've got to finish your contact.' ... In the end, we didn't make shots, but Zyon Pullin did. He carried us there."

Pullin used screens, off-the-ball cuts and quick-step drives to create shots.

"We wanted to come out with more intensity (in the second half ), " Pullin said. "We knew the shots weren't falling. I came out being aggressive. Coach put me in positions to make plays."

Olbrich, who was 1-for-8 in the first half, scored nine points in the second half to finish with 13. "Definitely missed many shots I shouldn't have missed, but that's my bad, " Olbrich said. "Hopefully, I tried to make up for it in the second half, playing as hard as I can for my team all the time."

Olbrich has been featured in the Highlanders' new-look defense. The previous two seasons, the Highlanders funneled opposing players toward 7-foot-1 centers Jock Perry and then Callum McRae. Without the space-eaters, 6-8 forward Kyle Owens provided quickness in the low post. But Owens has been out with an injury, enabling Olbrich to ascend as an interior force. The Highlanders amassed advantages of 34-28 in the paint and 13-8 on second-chance points.

"I was really pleased to see our guys scrambling around like that, " Magpayo said. "When you win a two-point game, you need every single possession."