HONOLULU — Oregon State men's basketball coaches wanted players to relish a rare Christmas in paradise.
So they filled the pockets of time a hectic Diamond Head Classic schedule afforded with leisurely activities. The Beavers snorkeled, visited Pearl Harbor, relaxed at the hotel pool and cheered for the their football counterparts at the Hawaii Bowl.
Somewhere along the way, coach Craig Robinson surmised, players started treating a "business trip" like a vacation. And against Hawaii on Wednesday, the Beavers' laid-back approach proved costly. OSU slogged through lackadaisical stretches in its tournament finale, falling to an inspired Rainbow Warriors team 79-73 at Stan Sheriff Center.
"When you get out in Hawaii, it's nice weather and everything," point guard Challe Barton said. "You can get the feeling of a vacation sort of. You've got to know that the No. 1 focus is basketball, not having fun. I think we got away from that a little bit."
The in attention became most apparent early in the second half. After cutting a 10-point first-half deficit to two by the break, the Beavers returned to the court out of sorts. They started playing matador defense, allowing Hawaii easy paths to the basket.
As the Warriors feasted on a steady diet of layups, dunks and putbacks, a potent OSU (7-4) offense stagnated. It missed a litany of close-range attempts, enduring more than five minutes without a point.
The hometown crowd joined the festivities. Green-clad supporters screeched with each Hawaii (9-3) bucket, helping propel their team to a 23-4 run that secured a 65-46 edge midway through the half.
"We came out thinking the game was ours because we made a comeback against their run," Robinson said. "It doesn't work that way."
The Beavers tried to claw back. They cut off driving lanes and attacked the rim whenever possible. The Warriors, meanwhile, grew frazzled. They missed a host of free throws, subduing the once-raucous crowd with each clang.
OSU cut Hawaii's lead to single digits with about four minutes remaining. And though guard Roberto Nelson hit a number of timely jumpers down the stretch, the Beavers couldn't deliver enough necessary stops to complete the comeback.
"I think it was just we let the gap get too big," said Nelson, who finished with 24 points. "It's just tough, especially since this is a home game for them."
Unlike its first-round loss to Akron, when OSU dug a 16-2 hole, the Beavers opened Wednesday's contest with energy. They traded early blows with the Warriors, tying the game at 24 midway through the half.
But then the inattention made its first appearance. While OSU toiled through slow-footed possessions, Hawaii built a double-digit lead.The Beavers responded, setting the stage for their monumental collapse early in the second half.
"There's no sugarcoating it," Nelson said. "We've just got to play with more intensity."
As Robinson reflected on the Beavers' second defeat in four days, he pinpointed players' relaxed approach to the eight-team tournament. Throughout the trip, he explained, the group didn't approach games with the right mentality.
"In seeing how this place affects you, it'd be more of a lock-down situation," Robinson said when asked how he would've altered the team's preparations. "We'll put it that way."
The sixth-year coach added that he's considering "severe lineup changes" for the Beavers' Dec. 29 home matchup against Quinnipiac.
After all, he figures, OSU only has one more nonconference tune-up before entering a daunting Pac-12 slate. The Arizonas and Oregons have a knack for capitalizing on opponents' inattention.
Robinson said center Angus Brandt, who has missed the past two games with a knee injury, "probably could've gone" against Hawaii. He decided not to play the senior because he felt the game didn't warrant risking further injury.