No. 13 seed Hawaii can't participate in the postseason next year after it used ineligible players from 2012 to 2014, so it decided to make this campaign's run to the NCAA tournament a memorable one with a 77-66 upset over fourth-seeded California during Friday's first-round tilt in Spokane, Washington.
The victory is Hawaii's first in NCAA tournament history, per SportsCenter:
It's been a difficult week for California. After assistant coach Yann Hufnagel was fired amid sexual harassment allegations, leading scorer Tyrone Wallace broke his hand just two days before Friday's matchup.
To make matters worse, Jabari Bird was sidelined with back spasms and didn't play.
Missing two scorers who combined for 25.7 points per game, Cal had to rely on Ivan Rabb and Jordan Matthews. Matthews recorded 23 points, while Rabb added 13.
Cal struggled to shoot, hitting 41.1 percent of its attempts on the day as its offense sputtered. It had as many turnovers as field goals made (nine) in the first half alone and ended the day with 16.
Hawaii, on the other hand, made its game plan known early and went to it often in the form of forward Stefan Jankovic. The Big West Player of the Year put up 16 points, with 10 of them coming in the first half as Hawaii built a six-point halftime lead.
The first-half performance caught ESPN College BBall's attention:
The Missouri transfer showed what he was capable of on the big stage, as PowerMizzou.com's Gabe DeArmond reminisced about Jankovic's time as a Tiger:
Jankovic, though, ran into foul trouble and picked up his fourth with just over 17 minutes left to play in the second half and Hawaii up 42-34, which forced him to the bench.
He wasn't the only one who suffered from the referee's whistle. In total, 49 fouls were called, compared to the teams making 50 field goals combined. In the first half alone, there were 25 fouls called as TVG's Andrew Champagne noted:
Jankovic's foul trouble didn't hurt Hawaii, which built a lead as large as 11 in the second half thanks to the play of Roderick Bobbitt:
Cal's Jaylen Brown, who averaged 15.0 points per game this season, was also affected by foul trouble. He recorded just four points before fouling out in the second half.
GoldenBlogs reviewed Cal's situation while Brown was battling foul trouble earlier in the second half:
But the Golden Bears finally found a way to get back into things. The resurgence came in the form of Wallace's replacement, Sam Singer, who sparked a 9-2 run with six straight points to get Cal back within one possession with 12 minutes to go.
Singer's quick spurt surpassed his season average of 3.5 points per game rather quickly, as he finished the night with 12 points overall.
Hawaii found a response of its own, though, and rebuilt its lead back to 11 at 64-53 with just over six minutes to go. Much of that was thanks to Quincy Smith, who scored nine of his career-high 19 points in the final eight minutes of the second half.
The Rainbow Warriors will get the winner of No. 5 seed Maryland and No. 12 seed South Dakota State in the second round of the tournament.
For Hawaii head coach Eran Ganot, it's a dream start for his first season with the Rainbow Warriors after knowingly taking the job despite a postseason ban looming in 2017.
It was a momentous occasion for him as he spoke with the media, per Hawaii Basketball:
Smith, who led Hawaii down the stretch, spoke about the game plan and how his team executed, via BSO's Jeremy Mills:
Jankovic, who helped damage a lot of brackets, was only concerned about one after the win, per Tim Booth of the Associated Press:
With the way Hawaii performed against Cal, it might not be done, especially if South Dakota State can somehow find a way to give Maryland a game later Friday. With a trio of scorers like Jankovic, Bobbitt and Smith, Hawaii will be a tough customer to oust in this tournament.
Check out Bleacher Report's live updating bracket to track your picks along the road to the Final Four.
Stats courtesy of ESPN.com.