The story line was set early and there wasn’t anything Long Beach State men’s basketball could do about it on Saturday at Walter Pyramid as visiting Hawaii shot its way to a 72-67 win.
Hawaii (5-5, 1-0) made 15 of its 34 attempts from 3-point range while LBSU (4-9, 0-1) shot 37 percent from the field.
“They just got too comfortable around the three-point line,” LBSU coach Dan Monson said. “They were able to get a lot of guys making shots. We’re just not making that next level of contest that makes people go 8-for-34 instead of 15-for-34, but I think that’s something that’s correctable.”
Hawaii got a game-high 22 points from guard Noel Coleman, who made six 3-pointers. LBSU was led by Colin Slater’s 16 points and Joel Murray’s 15 points. However, they went a combined 12-for-33 from the field.
“There’s no particular reason,” Slater said of the poor shooting performance at home. “Shot selection could be a part of it. We shoot our best when it’s inside out. I have no real worries about our shooting. It was a tough game but I’m not worried about that.”
The contest was the first Big West Conference action for both teams after three cancellations over the last two weeks due to COVID-19 protocols. LBSU added two games this week to try and stay sharp, but the defense looked a step slow early on as Hawaii made four of their first six buckets from behind the 3-point line.
“We certainly had the effort today so I feel for our guys because it’s hard to keep giving the effort and not getting the reward,” Monson said. “We’re just now where we need to be as we start (the Big West). Playing those games this week helped us but not enough obviously. As a coach I’m not going to freak out on them because they’re trying.”
Hawaii jumped out to a 19-10 lead before forward Joe Hampton came off the bench to spark a run that pulled LBSU within one point. Hawaii maintained its lead and was up 32-27 at halftime.
“He’s one of the best big men I’ve ever played with,” Slater said of Hampton, who missed some games earlier this season due to a personal issue. “When he’s positive and he has his motor going he’s as good as anyone in the country. It’s always good to have him in a good headspace. I’m glad we get sparks of that and we’re hoping to build on that and he can impact this team in a great way.”
LBSU forward Aboubacar Traore was also key down low with a team-high 10 rebounds, eight points and a pair of blocks.
Hawaii pulled away in the middle of the second half and led by as many as 16 points, but LBSU finished the game on a 16-5 run to make it a close call down the stretch. A Slater lay-in pulled the Beach within four with 16 seconds to play, but the Beach ran out of time.
“As our defense slipped we got into panic mode offensively and began trying to do too much on our own,” Monson added. “The strength of this team offensively is the balance. Most of our success is when they play off each other.”
LBSU is scheduled to host UC Santa Barbara on Thursday, and CSUN on Saturday.