UPDATED: Warriors win Rainbow Classic on ESPN late-night
The Hawai’i men’s basketball team again proved to be an overnight success, racing past Houston Baptist, 73-60, in the wee hours Monday/Tuesday to win the Outrigger Hotels and Resorts Rainbow Classic.
Vander Joaquim scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in his first start of the season, Brandon Spearman added 15 points and Christian Standhardinger contributed 14 points and 11 rebounds as the Warriors improved to 3-0 heading into Friday’s 7:30 p.m. home game against Illinois.
An energetic and festive “Blackout” crowd of about 2,500 at the Stan Sheriff Center showed up for Monday’s 11:05 p.m. start, which was part of ESPN’s annual College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon. Houston Baptist fell to 2-1. UH has won all three of its Tip-Off Marathon games during head coach Gib Arnold’s tenure.
“I’m really happy to be wearing this new hat,” said Arnold, sporting a black tournament baseball cap with “CHAMPION” embroidered in gold on the side. “It feels good to win a championship, and it’s important for this team to learn how to win.”
Joaquim, a 6-foot-10 senior center, played 19 minutes in each of UH’s first two games after recovering from a torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee suffered Sept. 29 and logged 26 minutes against Houston Baptist. He scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds by halftime as the Warriors jumped out to a comfortable 38-23 lead.
Joaquim drained a 19-footer from the top of the key to break a 6-6 tie and start Hawai’i on a 10-0 run capped by Brandon Spearman’s 3-pointer which put the Warriors ahead, 16-6, with 12:41 remaining in the first half. Joaquim later scored a layup followed by a three-point play with 4:25 left to give UH a 29-14 lead.
“I just have to thank my teammates, we played great team basketball,” Joaquim said. “They kept finding me, and Jace did a great job getting me the ball. We work through each other, and that’s what it’s all about.”
The Warriors maintained control despite a slow start by small forward Hauns Brereton, who scored a combined 39 points in the first two games but missed his first six field goal attempts — including three from beyond the arc — in the first half. Spearman, a 6-3 junior transfer from Indian Hills Community College, picked up the slack by scoring 10 first-half points on 4-for-5 shooting.
“Nobody has to lean on anybody (for scoring) on this team,” Spearman said. “Anyone is capable of scoring 10 or 15 points, and I’m glad I was able give the team the push it needed.”
Hawai’i still shot a decent 15 for 31 (48.4 percent) from the field in the first half despite making just 1 of 7 from 3-point range.
“Our greatest advantage will be our bigs,” Arnold said. “I’d be more worried if those guys started missing shots inside. Our offense is going to run from the inside-out, and if we start hitting from outside, that really opens things up inside. If we’re gonna be competitive, we gotta have both things working.”
The Warriors stretched the lead to 55-35 seven minutes into the second half and 70-48 with 4:10 remaining, and the Huskies never got closer than 71-60 with 36 seconds left.
Brereton hit both of his second-half field goal attempts and was 6 for 6 from the line to finish with 11 points and six rebounds.
“Even when Hauns is not shooting well, he stretches the defense because they have to guard him out there,” Arnold said.
Senior point guard Jace Tavita had eight assists and is now averaging nine assists per game.
Joaquim was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player after tallying 46 points and 21 rebounds in the three games of the Rainbow Classic. He was joined by Standhardinger, Spearman and Brereton on the All-Tournament Team. Standhardinger was Hawai’i’s top scorer in the tournament with 52 points in three games, followed by Brereton with 50.
Houston Baptist was led by Art Bernardi’s 22 points. He was also named to the All-Tournament Team and led the tournament in scoring with 53 points.
(Photos courtesy Charles Simmons)