Hawaii leaves their imprint on the NCAA Tournament with an upset win over Cal.
For the first time in school history, the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors have a victory in the NCAA Tournament.
Coming in as the 13-seed in the South Region, the Rainbow Warriors, or Bows as a lot of fans call them, were the winners of the Big West this season. Their opponent: the 4-seed California Golden Bears.
And the Rainbow Warriors, from the Islands across the Pacific Ocean, had no fear on Friday afternoon as they defeated the Cal Bears 77-66 in a stunning upset.
For Cal, they had a crazy week with lots of negative headlines. The Bears dismissed assistant coach Yann Hufnagel earlier this week amid sexual harassment accusations.
To make matters worse, the Bears lost senior point guard Tyrone Wallace when he broke his hand in practice on Wednesday, just a few days before the game.
As if it couldn’t get any worse for Cal, the team announced that Jabari Bird was out of the game due to being “under the weather.” The team would later announce that Bird had suffered back spasms during pregame warmups and never played in this game.
For Hawaii, they were a trendy upset pick coming into this game even before Wallace broke his hand. The Warriors fought hard and tough with Oklahoma in non-conference slate and had no problems in Big West Conference play, except for three losses.
They lost to UC-Riverside, and were defeated twice by Long Beach State, but were able to win three straight including a revenge game against Long Beach to receive the automatic bid for the Big West.
Hawaii guard Quincy Smith led all scorers for the Rainbow Warriors with 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Roderick Bobbitt added 17 points and seven boards on a 7-of-16 clip and played every single minute in this game against Cal.
Hawaii big man Stefan Jankovic chipped in 16 points and five boards but played just 18 minutes after battling foul trouble early on in the contest.
Hawaii as a team shot a very impressive 51 percent from the field to go with an 80 percent mark from the free throw line. This was the Rainbow Warriors first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2002 and their first-ever victory in the Big Dance.
The Golden Bears were just too short-handed to come out of Spokane with a win. Already minus Wallace and Bird, to complicate things even more was the foul trouble that Jaylen Brown got into.
Brown had three fouls in the first half and had to sit for a long time on the Bears bench. Brown would come back in but would eventually foul out of the game with a little more than six minutes remaining in the game.
Brown, who many view as a lottery pick in this upcoming NBA Draft if he chooses to declare, finished with a disappointing four points on 1-of-6 from the field. He also had a dismal seven turnovers. It is safe to say this is a game that Brown will want to forget sooner rather than later.
Jordan Mathews led all scorers in this game with 23 points on 9-of-15 from the field in 31 minutes of play, but the Bears just couldn’t overcome the losses of Bird, Wallace, and then Brown.
Ivan Rabb, another player who has 1st-round implications if he declares for the draft, finished with 13 points and 12 boards on a 5-of-11 clip in 38 minutes.
Sam Singer, who came in averaging just 3.5 points per game on the season, got the start with Wallace out with the broken hand. Singer played well and had 12 points and five boards on a 5-of-9 mark from the field to go with a pair of steals.
The Bears shot just 3-of-19 from beyond the arc which is good for 15 percent. Hawaii didn’t shoot much better from three-point country, as the Rainbow Warriors shot just 3-of-14 to finish at 21 percent. The game consisted of an outrageous 49 fouls combined from the two teams and a ridiculous 51 free throw attempts.
California will now head home sooner than just about everybody expected.
As for Hawaii, they will match-up against a talented Maryland Terrapins team that defeated the South Dakota Jackrabbits in the 5-12 game.
Will Hawaii’s unbelievable season continue with a trip to the round of 16? We will see come Sunday.