UHH Men’s Hoops Flat in Loss to PLNU
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by Josh Pacheco
The windy, wet weather wasn’t the only thing cold Saturday afternoon at the University of Hawai`i at Hilo.
The Vulcans men’s basketball team came out frigid from the field and, at times, was frozen on defense as UHH dropped a key PacWest basketball matchup to Point Loma Nazarene, 79-61, at the UH Hilo Gymnasium.
“We got outplayed,” said UHH head coach Jeff Law on ESPN Radio and ESPNHawaii.com. “We didn’t match any of their quickness, their cuts, their sharpness. It looked like we should still be in practice to try to get ready for a night game.”
The game tipped off at 2:30 p.m. to avoid having a conflict with the KTA Super Stores / Big Island Interscholastic Federation Boys Basketball Championships played later in the evening.
UH Hilo (5-17, 3-11 PWC) opened the game by spotting the Sea Lions the first seven points in the game’s first 2:42, started by a three pointer by Trevor Peterson. The outside shots were raining from outside the arc all game for Point Loma Nazarene, who hit 11 of their 26 attempts from distance for the game.
The Vulcans answered PLNU’s 7-0 start with a 5-0 run to get within two points, but never could get any closer than that for the rest of the game. PLNU took their first double digit lead of the game following with 11:10 remaining in the opening half with an 8-0 run, capped by Weston Ehlers’ trey that made the score 17-7.
Ehlers led the Sea Lions with 21 points off of the bench. The streaky shooter shot 4-for-8 from beyond the arc and hit 8 of his 12 total attempts from the field.
The Vulcans struggled to make shots throughout the opening half, shooting just 7-for-27, a 25.9 percent average, in the game’s first 20 minutes. UHH was held without a field goal for most of the final 5:01 of the first half until Brandon Thomas hit a shot in the paint with :03 left in the first period. UH Hilo trailed 37-24 at halftime.
Point Loma Nazarene (5-18, 2-13 PWC) never let their second half lead get any lower than 11 points. Their biggest lead hit 22 points with 6:10 remaining when Oivind Lundestad hit a jump shot to make the score 67-45. Lundestad scored 13 points and hit three treys off of the bench.
UH Hilo attempted to slow down the visitors by getting into a 2-3 zone, similar to one PLNU used to get the Vulcans out of any offensive rhythm. Instead, the Sea Lions’ mastery of the Princeton offense, plus the difference in intensity between the teams, led to more open outside shots and solid cuts and picks that kept the offense rolling.
“Every single person did not match the intensity that they had, and that’s a rough pill to take,” said Law. “We’re not a very good zone team, because we’re lazy.”
The loss makes it tougher for UH Hilo to qualify for the PacWest Conference tournament, played March 7-9 at Azuza Pacific in California. The Vulcans trail the current sixth seed, Hawai`i Pacific University, by three games with four contests left in the season. HPU defeated UHH 68-66 at the Neal Blaisdell Center on February 2, meaning that the Sea Warriors also hold a tiebreaker against Hawai`i Hilo. A loss by the Vulcans would eliminate them from postseason contention.
Four players led UHH with 10 points. Derek Owens, Brandon Thomas, Michael Melonas, and Kiel Myers combined to shoot 14-31. The Vulcans shot 36 percent from the field, 5-19 from beyond the arc, and 16-24 from the free throw line.
Sam Okhotin added 18 points for Point Loma Nazarene, who got 60 of their points from the bench. The freshman from San Diego shot 3-for-4 from beyond the arc in 19 minutes.
UH Hilo’s Monday contest against HPU will tip at 4:30 p.m. The game can be heard on ESPN Radio and ESPNHawaii.com
Point Loma Nazarene 37 42 – 79
Hawai`i Hilo 24 37 – 61