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Updated: Warriors rally past Vulcans on Big Island

KAILUA-KONA – It was a tale of two halves as different as two Hawaiian islands.

The Hawaii basketball team trailed the entire first half, then dominated the second half in a 79-66 victory over Hawaii-Hilo on Friday night.

The game was played before a crowd of 331 at Kealakehe High School Gymnasium. Although UH-Hilo is a NCAA Division II program, the results and statistics counted for both teams. The Warriors improved to 4-4, while the Vulcans dropped to 4-3.

“I was just really proud how these guys came out, especially in that second half; fought through some adversity – you got five guys getting here less than an hour before the game,” Hawaii head coach Gib Arnold said. “I don’t think our minds were quite there come tip-off time, and I can understand that. But that second half, I was pleased. I thought the guys really came together defensively … it was a team win.”

Freshman point guard Shaquille Stokes bounced back from his worst game of the season last week with a season-high 21 points and four assists to lead the Warriors. Stokes came off the bench in Hawaii’s previous game, but returned to the starting lineup against UH-Hilo.

Junior center Vander Joaquim recorded his second consecutive double-double, finishing with 19 points and a career-high 17 rebounds.

Junior forward Joston Thomas added 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting, and Trevor Wiseman contributed nine points on 3-of-3 shooting, and five rebounds.

“There’s two halves to a game,” Stokes said. “We knew the first half that they can’t win, so we came out in the second half and went back and did the same thing we did in the first half and it worked … so it was a team effort today.”

The slow start could in part be attributed to the late arrival of five key players: Stokes, Joaquim, Zane Johnson, Miah Ostrowski and Bobby Miles. All five had to stay on the UH-Manoa campus on Friday morning to complete final examinations for the fall semester. They got on a private flight to Kailua-Kona in the afternoon, and arrived at the Kealakehe gym about an hour before the game.

“They got here about 45 minutes before the game (but) they had to get taped and had to get changed,” Arnold said. “The flight was little bit delayed and traffic was a little bit longer than we thought, but they made it. Some guys, that’s tough. A guy like Zane (Johnson) is a real rhythm guy, who has a little pre-game routine that starts a couple hours before, he wasn’t able to do it. It was hard for him to get into a rhythm.”

Johnson, who entered the game averaging 15.4 points per game, scored a season-low six points. He shot 2 of 10 from the field, including 0 of 6 from 3-point range – snapping a streak of 31 consecutive games with at least one 3-pointer.

The Vulcans scored the first basket of the game, and stayed in front for the entire first half. UH-Hilo had a 25-14 lead with eight minutes remaining in the first half, but the Warriors managed to cut the deficit to 34-32 at intermission.

“Coach Gib is a competitor – he was (ticked) – I can’t repeat what he said,” Stokes said. “But he basically said for us to go hard.”

Hawaii responded by opening the second half with a 15-2 run to overtake the Vulcans. UH-Hilo got as close as 51-49, but the Warriors answered with a 14-0 run to push the lead to 65-49 with 6:19 remaining. The Vulcans never threatened after that.

Led by the 6-foot-10 Joaquim and 7-foot Davis Rozitis (two points, seven rebounds), the Warriors controlled the low-post, especially in the second half. Hawaii out-rebounded the Vulcans, 44-35.

“We had a (size) advantage, so we just took over,” Joaquim said. “You have to go insie. You have to have an inside presence as a team.”

After shooting 39.3 percent in the first half, the Warriors shot 51.4 percent in the second half, while holding UH-Hilo to 33.3 percent shooting in the second half.

“I was worried in the beginning because, I don’t know, we weren’t playing hard, like we usually do,” Joaquim said. “It took us a little while to pick it up, but we finally did.”

Terrell Mack led UH-Hilo with 20 points, including 4-of-8 shooting from 3-point range.

The Warriors will continue their weekend of island hopping with a game on Maui on Sunday against North Carolina A&T.

3 Comments

  1. You gotta like how Stokes, Thomas, and Jefferson have responded this week.

    That shows resiliency, maturity, and toughness. Very encouraging to see, and portends for future success. The season is a marathon, not a sprint, and you want to be playing your best at the end of the year.

    This team is finding their identity, and has had a lot of different guys step up to answer the call. Different guys have all had their moments from game to game. Everyone has had their moments, Miles, Brereton, Rozitas, Jefferson, have all been able to make key contributions towards getting wins.

    That is what you want in the non-conference part of your schedule. Develop the different elements, and see if you can get them to jell during conference.

    Continuing to win will build confidence. And when they maintain consistent resiliency, toughness, and stay together, that will bring swagger. And that is where you want to get to.

  2. I agree, winning will continue to bring confidence to this team. Tomorrow’s game should be a more challenging one so getting off to a fast start and finishing would be great.
    Go Warriors!

  3. Nice to see Stokes rebound from the last game. It’s amazing what lack of practice preparation can do to a team not to mention what the final exams had on some of the players. But finals are done and its time to play hard. Hopefully we play great on Sunday and then head into tournament play with a small win streak going. Who knows.

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