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Updated: Warriors deny Clemson on final day of Classic

Continuing to spread its Christmas cheer, Hawai’i shared in another strong team effort on Sunday afternoon to deny Clemson, 75-68, and claim fifth place in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.

A Christmas Day crowd of around 3,000 at the Stan Sheriff Center watched the Warriors defeat a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference for the first time in program history to improve to 7-5.

Zane Johnson scored a season-high 27 points — including six 3-pointers — and Vander Joaquim added 14 points and 10 rebounds as the Warriors finished 2-1 in the tournament. Clemson went 1-2 in the tournament to drop to 7-6 overall.

After a 65-62 last-second loss to Auburn on Thursday, the Warriors rebounded with a thrilling victory over No. 14-ranked Xavier on Friday, and then Sunday’s gritty win over Clemson.

“Merry Christmas everybody,” Hawai’i head coach Gib Arnold said. “I feel really good about our players’ effort this week … we lost a tough one in the first game but came back to win two games, like we did last year. Obviously we’d like to be on the other side of the bracket, and our goal is to win this tournament. That will continue to be our goal, we feel strongly about that. But I’m pleased with the team’s effort — everybody played hard.”

Hawai’i trailed, 34-31, at halftime Sunday but scored the first nine points of the second half to take the lead for good.

“We came out wanting to get seven stops in a row, and I think we had a record there at nine stops,” said Johnson, a 6-foot-6 senior guard. “We pride ourselves in defense, and we’re starting to get better defensively.”

Johnson scored 19 of his 27 points in the second half and the Warriors led by as much as 12 at 67-55 after Hauns Brereton’s three-point play with 1:22 remaining, but Clemson cut it to 69-64 on K.J. McDaniels’ putback with 35.1 seconds remaining.

Johnson scored 59 points in Hawaii’s three games of the Diamond Head Classic, and was one of five players named to the all-tournament team.

Freshman point guard Shaquille Stokes then sank two free throws 13 seconds later and Johnson sealed the victory with four straight free throws in the final 10.7 seconds.

“Shaq gave us the spark we needed and we needed him in there at the end because they were starting to foul us and we were struggling a bit against their pressure,” Arnold said.

Johnson had his streak of consecutive free throws made end at 29 after missing his first attempt of the game, but he finished 5 of 6 from the free throw line, 8 of 14 from the field, and 6 of 12 from 3-point range.

UH jumped out to a 7-2 lead to start the game and was up, 19-14, after Trevor Wiseman’s layup with 9:56 remaining in the first half. But Tanner Smith scored on a layup at the nine-minute mark to ignite a 10-0 run Clemson run, capped by Andre Young’s 3-pointer to make it 24-19 with 7:28 left.

The Tigers led 34-28 after a jumper by Young with 1:44 remaining, but Garrett Jefferson made one of two free throws 22 seconds later and Joaquim sank a jump hook with 46 seconds left to close it to 34-31 at the break.

In addition to an increase in defensive intensity, the Warriors credited the second-half charge to a patient offense featuring solid screens to free up good looks for Johnson, who drained four of his six 3-pointers after halftime.

“They were really good screens — down and low with a wide base, making it hard for the defender to trail,” Johnson said. “Even when (the Tigers) tried to shoot the gaps, our bigs would recognize that and slide over a little to make enough contact.”

Arnold said the picks were crucial to the team’s offensive execution.

“When Zane’s hitting threes like that, all of a sudden I become a real good coach,” Arnold said, laughing. “We ran our ‘shaka’ series, which is a 1-4 high, we ran it 10 to 12 times and then on the next play we’d run a counter, and then we’d go back and counter with the shaka. It started working, got our offense moving, and got our guys the shots. Not just Zane, but Joston (Thomas), Hauns, Vander … That’s when we were making our run.”

Arnold said the players should know “your number is not going to get called every play,” and they are starting to understand their roles.

“I think the players are starting to trust their roles and play to their strengths … the shooters shoot, the defenders defend, don’t worry so much about your minutes but play hard while you’re in there,” Arnold said. “If you have all your guys buying in, at this level of college basketball, you’ve got a good chance to win.”

The Warriors have now won five of their last six games after starting the season at 2-4, but Arnold said there is still much room for improvement.

“I think we’re still in the infant stage as far as progress,” Arnold said. “You can go from mediocre to good by just shoring up some things like defense and turnovers. We’ve made a big jump and that is good, but to go from good to great is the hardest step to take. But I think we’re capable of making that.”

Brereton added 10 points and four rebounds and Miah Ostrowski contributed with two points, eight assists and three rebounds.

Andre Young led the Tigers with 14 points, Devin Booker added 13 points and Tanner Smith contributed with 12 points.

The Warriors will remain at home for their next game, which is scheduled for Thursday, December 29, against South Carolina State.

(Photos courtesy Brandon Flores)

Sunday’s results
Championship —
Kansas State 77, Long Beach State 60
Third place — UTEP 83, Auburn 76
Fifth place — Hawai’i 75, Clemson 68
Seventh place — Xavier 87, Southern Illinois 77

All-Tournament Team
Larry Anderson, Long Beach State
Zane Johnson, Hawai‘i
Rodney McGruder, Kansas State
Michael Perez, UTEP
Jamar Samuels, Kansas State
MVP: Rodney McGruder, Kansas State

9 Comments

  1. Tremendous week of Rainbow Warrior basketball!
    I really enjoy and appreciate when Garret Jefferson comes in as you can see the stress level increase from the opposing player—especially when he is a little winded and all of a sudden he has to step up his intensity. Guys coming off the bench and doing the dirty work like playing solid defense and setting up screens does not show up in the stat books, but can be the difference to winning and losing in a close game. And Jefferson does it with a style and grace that is a breath of fresh air.
    Because we have 10 solid players we should not be too concerned with who the starting 5 will be for the rest of the year. This way guys can push themselves in practice since they know that their playing time is related to results in practice. Dedication in one’s life and working out hard day in and day out hurts a lot, but it pays big dividends for the individual and the team. Victory can be traced to good habits and the practice floor. And I feel that the team has good chemistry together as they all try to help one another and accept one another on and off the court. So important to recruit players with good heads on their shoulders and can fit in with the team. This team’s potential is beginning to show. We don’t need 5 superstars; we need 10 dedicated and humble role players. We are fortunate to have a great coaching staff that can spot players with potential and know how to develop them.

  2. Very well said, Servante! I totally agree with all of your points …

    You can tell the team is starting to blend well when Coach Gib can send out a different starting lineup yet again vs. Clemson, and it wasn’t that big a deal and people didn’t even seem to notice much.

    I like the fact (and maybe Gib does, too) that he can mix and match the lineup according to the opponent and certain matchups/situations, as well as who happens to have the hot hand/best effort. Like Dayton mentioned, too, it keeps everybody motivated and on their toes.

    Also, depth is very important as the long season marches on and it’s a good sign that the team is developing a strong bench early. This will pay off big time if injuries and/or fatigue become a factor later.

  3. i like what i saw from these past 3 games and seems like we have improved greatly but i still think we can’t say this team is that good yet…these 3 games have been at home.auburn was playing without one of it’s starting powerfowards and one player was out most of the second half due to an ankle sprain..xavier hadn’t played with it’s star for couple games and was missing it’s highly touted freshman but overall great game..and clemson is a bottom feeder although plays tough opponents..a lot has improved but a lot more must improve..lets see if you warriors can keep it up and take it to the most important road!!!

  4. Clemson Won a Previous Rainbow Classic … and is the Only “Other Team” in the ACC to make the NCAA Tourney The Last Four Years Running (along with The Dukies …)…

    i was amazed to discover that they were The First ACC Team that Hawai’i Beat after all these years …

    Clemson Finished in the Upper Third (#4) of the ACC Last Season and are picked in the Middle Third this season …

    Yup … Future Assignments include Proving they can Now Win On The Road, Then Against Better Teams (on the Road) … But That’s True for Most Teams …including the ones we Beat This Week …

  5. Oldest cliche in the book, but still the most true: Gotta take it one game at a time.

    Focus this week should be on beating South Carolina State. That’s Job No. 1.

    This team was only down by five at halftime at Pitt nine days ago … cannot take them for granted.

  6. Great Week for UHBB!!! Hopefully UH will take care of business and wipe out SCSU on Thursday. UH will get a serious reality check come Saturday vs UNLV.

    UNLV is red hot now and are running opponents out of the gym. It’s a very tough matchup for UH from an athletic standpoint. The Rebels are super athletic will be all over Zane and their big men will give Vander problems… Lopez is about 7ft tall and Massamba is much stronger than Vander.

    If UH is going to win…
    1. Zane must have big game
    2. Minimize turnovers
    3. Dictate the pace of the game
    4. Get to the freethrow line (and make them!)
    5. Stokes & Thomas need to be involved early and often

    If UNLV turns the game into a track meet, UH is in trouble. With Stokes, UH can run with UNLV in spurts. He’s got the quickness and ball handling ability to run with them, but the rest of the team may not be able to keep pace.

    As for UH, overall, I like the progress Gib is showing. I can see Gib is starting to adjust to being a head coach vs being an assistant. His in game coaching is getting better and he drew up an great final play that won the game vs Xavier. I think he’s setting his starting lineup according to the matchups, not by putting the 5 best players on the floor. Miah and Wiseman need to take the wide open shot opportunities. Defenses aren’t respecting them on offense and are sagging off them and its making it tougher on Zane, Vander and Joston.

    I CAN’T WAIT FOR NEXT SEASON to see the new recruits Fotu and Orel. Fotu will add depth and Orel has the potential to be better than Zane. Next year’s potential starting 5: Vander, Joston, Brereton, Orel and Stokes… add in Jefferson’s defensive ability off the bench and if Fotu can contribute, UH will be very good and has the ability to score a lot of points. (or if Fotu is ready, insert him as a starter and move Joston to the 3 position. That will be a very physical team at posts that should dominate the Big West opponents)

  7. Standhardinger will also be among UH’s Very Best Players ….

    With continued improvement of returnees they should be Deep 1through 13…

    – Lose “Only Two Seniors” – Albeit Two Big Ones …. Miah & Zane

    – NEED Another Certified Consistent Bomber — Orel + ? Stokes?, Jawato ? …

    Is There Another ?…

    Expect Both Jefferson & Wiseman to be Consistent to at least Mid-Range by Next Year — they Know it’ll help keep them On The Floor — Trevor maybe all the way to Three (without Hesitation) …

  8. That’s why South Carolina State could be a “trap game” for UH: potential letdown coming off the high of the Diamond Head Classic, and the temptation of looking ahead to UNLV.

    Gotta stay focused on beating SCSU first, cannot just show up and expect to win without maximum effort!

  9. Yes ! But although they’ve done well to win 5 of the Last 6 (Almost All 6!) they’ve All Been Close Enough that there’s “No Reason” to think they’re ‘Too Good’ for any opponent …

    BUT We Know How That Works …

    SO… having worked with the concept for a couple of weeks, i’m starting to Really Like Gib’s Approach of starting the Five Hardest Practice Players (OR The Best Match to the opposition) — they should never over-estimate themselves and they’ll be playing hard both by habit, or by match-up design and for a chance at more overall PT … it’s like getting a fresh chance every game …

    Still … they trailed at half-time of every DHC game And the “Road” Games were all too close — i hope they don’t have “that game” where they’re blowing ’em out at the half, then show up Not Ready to Challenge for another 20 minutes — Like Xavier …

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