UPDATED: Warriors tame Tigers; Joaquim reaches 1,000
Vander Joaquim climbed into elite status in the history of the Hawai’i men’s basketball team, and the Warriors climbed the standings of the Big West Conference in a 60-52 victory over Pacific on Thursday night.
A crowd of 5,571 at the Stan Sheriff Center watched the Warriors improve to 10-7 overall and into a tie for second place in the Big West at 4-2. They also saw Joaquim score 16 points and become just the 15th player in the history of the program to score 1,000 in a Hawai’i uniform.
“That’s a huge win for us,” head coach Gib Arnold said. “Not only does it keep us in the running in the Big West, keeps us up near the top, but that’s team that’s a team that was playing absolutely red hot.”
Pacific, which entered with a three-game winning streak, dropped to 9-8 overall and 3-2 in the conference.
Joaquim, a 6-foot-10 senior center, has scored most of his career points near the basket, but it was his 3-pointer late in the game that clinched the win for the Warriors.
The game was close throughout, featuring 15 lead changes and eight ties. The last tie was at 45 with 7:24 remaining, and then the Warriors took control down the stretch.
A key sequence came with 1:32 remaining and the Warriors holding a 51-49 lead. Pacific guard Lorenzo McCloud missed two free throws that could have tied it, and on the ensuing possession, Joaquim drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key off an assist from Ozren Pavlovic to give the Warriors an insurmountable 54-49 advantage with 1:06 remaining.
“I just kind of popped out and I was waiting for Ozi (Pavlovic),” Joaquim said. “He ended up passing it and I ended up making the 3, so it was a good play.”
Pavlovic, a 6-foot-8 freshman from Croatia, played the point guard position for most of the game (28 minutes) and finished with career-highs of 13 points and four assists. He went 8 for 9 from the free-throw line, including 4 for 4 in the final minute to secure the win.
“The feeling was great,” Pavlovic said. “I was kind of tired – first time getting playing time like this. But I love basketball more than anything.”
Arnold said: “As Ozi has developed this year I’ve grown to really like what he can bring to the table. He had five turnovers tonight, but he’s got to work on that … but he is a threat all the time out there.”
Senior Hauns Brereton also played a key reserve role, scoring 11 points – all in the first half. He went 4 of 5 from the field, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range to break out of a month-long slump.
Freshman forward Isaac Fotu added four points and 11 rebounds, and junior forward Christian Standhardinger had seven points and four rebounds.
The Warriors committed a season-high 23 turnovers and shot just 37.3 percent from the field on offense, but relied on a multi-faceted defense to stymie the Tigers. Hawai’i used a mix of zone, man-to-man and full-court defenses to confuse Pacific into a season-low 30.9 percent shooting from the field, including just 3 for 27 (11.1 percent) from 3-point range.
“We did some things differently today that I think worked,” Arnold said. “We pressed the entire first half and a little bit in the second half … that’s a rhythm team and once they get into a rhythm they run a lot of different sets and a lot of different things and we felt we could keep them out of their rhythm.”
The first half featured nine lead changes, and Hawaii took a 30-29 advantage at intermission. Brereton went 3-for-3 from 3-point range in the first half, and his blocked shot of a layup attempt by Pacific’s Colin Beatty just before the half ended preserved the Hawai’i lead.
Joaquim’s historic basket came with 9:15 remaining off another assist from Pavlovic. Joaquim caught the ball in the low post and turned for an uncontested bank shot from close range.
“That’s a big deal,” Arnold said. “When you’re one of 15 players who have played here, and all the great players … I couldn’t be more proud.”
Joaquim is the first player recruited by Arnold to reach the 1,000-point club at Hawai’i. He also ranks fourth on UH’s career rebounding list and sixth for blocked shots.
The previous Hawai’i players to reach 1,000 points are (in order): Chris Gaines, John Penebacker, Alika Smith, Predrag Savovic, Melton Werts, Phil Lott, Carl English, Phil Martin, Julian Sensley, Matt Gibson, Tom Henderson, Anthony Carter, Bobby Nash and Reggie Cross.
After Joaquim’s 3-pointer gave the Warriors a five-point advantage, Pavlovic (4 for 4) and Brandon Spearman (2 for 2) combined to go 6 for 6 from the free-throw line in the final minute to secure the victory.
The 52 points was the fewest allowed by the Warriors this season. Hawai’i also out-rebounded the Tigers, 42-38 – the 11th consecutive game that the Warriors have won the rebounding battle.
Sama Taku led Pacific with 15 points. McCloud, the Tigers’ leading scorer entering the game with 11.6 points per game, finished with six points on 3-of-10 shooting.
The Warriors will play another Big West home game on Saturday when they host UC Davis, which defeated Cal State Northridge, 74-71, on Thursday.
(Game photos courtesy Brandon Flores)