HONOLULU — Coal in the stockings.
The Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (8-4) men’s basketball team dropped consecutive games for the first time this season, falling to the TCU Horned Frogs (10-2) on Christmas Eve, 65-51, in the third-place matchup in the 2023 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.
For the second straight game, Hawai’i saw their opponent open up a multi-score lead off the bat as TCU drilled a pair of threes for a 6-1 lead before Noel Coleman made it a two-point game at the under-16 media timeout with tough and-one finish after being held scoreless for the first time this season against Georgia Tech.
Hawai’i would take its first lead of the afternoon on a lob from JoVon McClanahan to Mor Seck with 13:14 left in opening half, 10-9, but the lead was short-lived. TCU re-took the lead on the very next possession with a Micah Peavy baseline jumper swishing clean through. UH’s Juan Munoz tied it at 13 following the under-12-minute media timeout, knocking down his first three of the afternoon.
The Horned Frogs moved back out in front by five after Peavy responded with a three-pointer of his own and Ernest Udeh Jr. hammered home an alley-oop jam with 7:58 left in the opening half of play, but back-to-back buckets by UH’s Coleman brought the ‘Bows within four with Seck heading to the charity stripe with a chance to cut into the lead more.
Unfortunately for Hawai’i, both of Seck’s free throws were off the mark and the Big 12’s Horned Frogs made the misses hurt by sprinting out on a 9-2 run to take biggest lead of the day for either side to that point, 31-20.
TCU maintained a double-digit advantage up until the halftime buzzer when Coleman sunk a tough step back three at horn to make it 36-27 as the ‘Bows went to the locker rooms trailing by nine.
Much like the matchup against Georgia Tech, Hawai’i started the second half out flat, allowing TCU to score the first four points back in play before Coleman drove the baseline and got it to go to get the ‘Bows back on track for a moment. The Horned Frogs would up the lead to 15 with just over 11 minutes remaining after Peavy put back a TCU miss, but a Juan Munoz-triple sparked some energy inside Stan Sheriff Center as the ‘Bows attempted to make another double-digit second half comeback — though this time without the services of starting guard and all-Big West preseason selection JoVon McClanahan, who reportedly could not finish the game due to an ailment.
“Obviously, Jovon couldn’t go. He tried to give it a go early in the second half because he’s like that but you could tell he wasn’t the same, so we have to be smart about that,” Hawai’i head coach Eran Ganot told the media following the contest.
Hawai’i was able to bring it within single digits for the first time since the opening minutes of the second half after Ryan Rapp got a nice layup in traffic to go down with 4:59 left to play, making it 57-48, but that would be the closest UH would get.
TCU’s Trevian Tennyson’s first points of the second half pushed the visitors’ lead up to 15 once again with just over two minutes remaining and a pair of Jameer Nelson Jr. makes from the free throw line made it 64-48. Hawai’i’s Tom Beattie knocked down a three-pointer just before time expired to end a near-five minute scoring drought to close out the game, falling 64-51.
TCU was led by Jameer Nelson Jr’s 13 points on 3-of-6 shooting from the floor and a 6-for-6 performance from the free throw line, scoring 10 in the second half to help the Frogs maintain a comfortable lead throughout the afternoon. Tennyson also finished in double-figures with 10 points in the win for TCU, who heads to home for a date with Texas A&M-Commerce on New Years’ Day before opening up conference play against #2 Kansas on January 6.
Hawai’i was led by Noel Coleman’s 19 points as the senior was the only Rainbow Warrior to eclipse 10 points in the contest. UH was held to 33% shooting from the floor overall and just 6-for-25 from long range in the final game of the non-conference schedule for the ‘Bows. Juan Munoz was the only other Rainbow Warrior to make more than two field goals, finishing with nine points on three makes from long range.
“Disappointing. Give TCU credit, they did a great job,” Ganot said postgame. “[TCU’s] effort, their defense bothered us a bit quite a bit. I thought it was a slugfest most of the game.”
The ‘Bows will return to action on December 30, opening conference play by hosting Cal State Fullerton at SimpliFi Arena inside Stan Sheriff Center. The Titans ended Hawai’i’s season in 2022-23, eliminating the ‘Bows in overtime in the Big West Tournament quarterfinals.