UPDATED: Warriors top Riverside to stay atop Big West
Boosted by another freshman’s red-hot first half, Hawai’i blitzed past visiting UC Riverside, 76-61, in Big West Conference men’s basketball action Saturday night.
Redshirt freshman Brandon Jawato came off the bench to drain a record seven straight 3-pointers in the first half — finishing with a game-high 21 points — and Christian Standhardinger added 17 points and five rebounds as a crowd of 6,214 at the Stan Sheriff Center watched the Warriors improve to 9-5 overall and 3-0 in the Big West, tied for first place with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo entering their first conference road trip. UC Riverside fell to 4-11, 1-2.
In UH’s 90-88 victory over Cal State Fullerton on Thursday, true freshman forward Isaac Fotu scored 20 points in the first half and finished with 29. Jawato, a 6-foot-4 wing from El Segundo, Calif., tied a Big West record for 3-point field goal percentage in a single game (7-for-7) and set a UH freshman record for 3-point goals made in a single game.
He also tied Matt Lojeski’s 2007 school record for single-game 3-point field goal percentage (7-for-7) and fell three short of Trevor Ruffin’s single-game record for 3-point goals made (10 vs. Louisville in 1993).
Jawato said his leg started cramping early in the second half, and he was limited to seven minutes of action after intermission. He did not attempt a 3-point shot in the second half.
“It was fun to see a guy get hot like Brandon did,” Warriors coach Gib Arnold said. “I’ve never seen a guy hit seven 3-pointers in one half, in 20 years of coaching and 20 years of playing. But it was a team win — everybody who played, contributed.”
Vander Joaquim finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds, Fotu added 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting, and Jace Tavita contributed seven assists for Hawai’i.
Jawato entered the game averaging just 5.7 points per outing, but exceeded that mark less than midway through the first half. His first 3-pointer broke an 8-8 tie and his second one started the Warriors on a 14-0 run capped by Fotu’s layup that put UH up, 25-10 with 6:36 before intermission.
Jawato’s seventh 3-pointer, which came 49 seconds before the break, gave the Warriors a 40-19 lead that proved insurmountable.
“I just started shooting, and after the first couple, I felt hot,” Jawato said. “The more minutes I play, the more I feel confident out there. But it’s a team game, so I just try to get my teammates open and if I get open, knock down shots.”
Jawato nailed two 3-pointers from the right corner, two more from the right wing and one each from the top of the key, left wing and left corner. The wing shots were each from beyond 23 feet.
“I think from my third shot on, I was feeling my rhythm,” said Jawato, who once drained 10 treys in game during his junior year in high school.
Arnold said Jawato has the rare talent of being able to make shots without needing to square up completely to the basket.
“He has a nice stroke and can shoot it while he’s moving,” Arnold said. “He can hit it even when he’s off-balanced.”
Hawai’i led, 40-21, at the half and the Highlanders could not get closer than 13 points thereafter. Josh Fox’s baseline jumper cut the lead to 50-37 with 12:18 remaining, but the Warriors responded with a 9-3 run which Fotu bookended with a slam dunk and 15-foot jumper from the left wing to make it 59-40 four minutes later.
UC Riverside could not get within 15 points the rest of the way.
“(The Highlanders) had a really good game plan — they’re a physical team and play hard, they bump you and hit you and play aggressive — but our guys did a good job of countering that,” Arnold said.
Hawai’i shot 55.1 percent from the field, while limiting the Highlanders to 38.9 percent. Led by Jawato’s 7-for-7 performance, the Warriors shot a season-best 62.5 percent (10 for 16) from 3-point range. The Warriors also had their best game of the season, percentage-wise, from the free throw line, making 12 of 14 for 85.7 percent.
UH will now begin preparation for its first conference road trip, at UC Irvine in an ESPN game on Wednesday followed by a game at Long Beach State on Saturday afternoon. Arnold said that despite being 3-0 and in first place, the Warriors have much work still do do.
“If this is as good as we’re gonna be, then we’re not going to do very well in this conference,” Arnold said. “I think this team has a high ceiling, but we’re not there yet.”
(Game photos courtesy Charles Simmons)