UPDATED: Warrior freshmen lead rout of East Tennessee State
This time of year really is for the young. The Hawai’i basketball team proved it on Sunday when it started three freshmen and ran away with an 84-61 victory over East Tennessee State on the second day of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.
A late afternoon crowd of around 4,000 at the Stan Sheriff Center watched the Warriors improve to 6-4, and advance to the consolation title game for the third consecutive year. Hawai’i will face Mississippi for fifth place in the eight-team tournament at 11:30 a.m. on Christmas Day.
Senior center Vander Joaquim led five Warriors in double-figure points with 23, and he also grabbed nine rebounds and had four assists. Junior forward Christian Standhardinger added 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting, and grabbed12 rebounds.
“Coach made a couple of (lineup) changes, but it didn’t matter,” Joaquim said. “We were just ready and had a good performance.”
It was the play of the Hawai’i freshmen that seemed to spark spirited effort. Point guard Manroop Clair, shooting guard Brandon Jawato and forward Isaac Fotu were the freshmen starters alongside Joaquim and Standhardinger.
Clair responded with 15 points, including 4-of-8 shooting from 3-point range, and passed for a team-high five assists. Fotu finished with 14 points and a team-high 14 rebounds. Jawato contributed four points, four rebounds, four steals and three assists.
“I’m a big guy on matchups, so two things went into my decision on (starting) Manroop,” Hawai’i head coach Gib Arnold said. “In watching East Tennessee State, because of our size, I thought we’d see a lot of zone. Although we hadn’t seen it in the games, I see it every day in practice – Manroop can shoot the ball. I figured he could give us that extra shooter against the zone.
“I also felt that we’re not going to be an at-large birth team to the NCAA tournament. We’re going to have to win three games at the end at the Big West Tournament if we want a chance to go to the NCAA Tournament … we need to understand that our best basketball needs to be played in March. If you look at it that way, I really feel that Manroop Clair and Brandon Jawato and Ozren (Pavlovic) need to feel comfortable in the end of the Big West Conference and so they need more minutes.”
Fotu is already an established starter, but Clair and Jawato were both making their first collegiate starts. Clair entered the game averaging fewer than eight minutes per game, but he played 30 against the Buccaneers.
“I was kind of tired today; my butt hurts right now,” Clair said. “It’s a good feeling but as long as we got the W, that’s all that matters.”
The Warriors dominated the game in virtually every phase, including a 49-26 advantage in rebounding. Hawaii shot 50.7 percent from the field, including 43.5 percent (10 for 23) from 3-point range. The undersized Bucs shot 3 4.3 percent from the field, and went 6 for 23 from 3-point range (26.1 percent). The Warriors also passed for a season-high 22 assists.
ETSU played most of the game with a four-guard lineup and 6-foot-7 Hunter Harris in the post. The Warriors countered by starting three “bigs” – 6-10 Joaquim, 6-8 Standhardinger, and 6-8 Fotu.
“We just came prepared to play and the guards gave us the ball,” Joaquim said. “We’re much stronger and bigger inside so you have to go inside. That’s what we did tonight.”
The Warriors opened the game with a 23-9 lead and never looked back. The Hawaii lead was 34-22 at halftime, then the Warriors turned it into a rout with a 12-0 run to open the second half that increased the lead to 46-22.
The victory came less than 24 hours after the Warriors suffered their biggest loss of the season, 73-58, to Miami (FL) on the opening night of the Diamond Head Classic.
“Give the guys a lot of credit for rebounding on a tough turnaround time and a tough loss,” Arnold said. “We felt like we let our fans down a little bit, but our attitude, energy and effort were great tonight. Good for the guys. They needed that and they earned it.”
Junior guard Brandon Spearman was the fifth Warrior in double-figures with 10 points.
Jarvis Jones and Rashawn Rembert led ETSU with 14 points each. The Bucs dropped to 2-9 and will play for seventh place in the tournament on Tuesday.
(Game photos courtesy Charles Simmons)
No. 18 San Diego State 62, Indiana State 55
No. 4 Arizona 69, Miami 50
Hawai’i 84, East Tennessee State 61
Mississippi 85, San Francisco 78
9 a.m. – East Tennessee State vs. San Francisco for seventh place
11:30 a.m. – Hawai’i vs. Mississippi for fifth place
2:30 p.m. – Indiana State vs. Miami for third place
4:30 p.m. – No. 18 San Diego State vs. No. 4 Arizona for championship