UPDATED: Reserves help Warriors run away from Golden Lions
The University of Hawai’i basketball team finished the holiday weekend with what has become a nice annual tradition – a convincing victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
The latest version came in the form of a 64-44 victory over the Golden Lions on Sunday night. An announced crowd of 5,508 at the Stan Sheriff Center watched the Warriors improve to 4-3 while bouncing back from a heartbreaking two-point loss to Troy just 48 hours earlier.
It was Hawai’i’s fifth victory over UAPB since 2010, and the last four wins (in 2012, 2014, 2015 and this year) have come by an average of 25.8 points per game. The Golden Lions fell to 1-5 this season.
This win, however, did not come as easy as the final 20-point margin might indicate. Hawai’i was stuck on six points for the first nine minutes of the game, and made just one of its first 15 field goal attempts to open the game.
“Pleased to come out with a victory; very pleased with our second half,” Hawai’i head coach Eran Ganot said. “Like I said, this game is very humbling, you have to honor it. I think for the second consecutive game, we did not. We didn’t come out ready to play … we said some things in the locker room at halftime. Obviously, we have to try that before the game starts.”
Gibson Johnson scored 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting to lead a balanced Hawai’i offense. Jack Purchase added 11 points and six rebounds, and Sheriff Drammeh contributed nine points, five assists and four rebounds.
All 13 players in uniform saw action, and the contributions of several reserve players received praise from Ganot for igniting the second-half surge. In particular, freshman point guard Matthew Owies scored a season-high 11 points and passed for four assists, and junior guard Larry Lewis Jr. also scored a season-high 10 points on perfect 3-for-3 shooting from the field (along with 4 of 6 on free throws.
“I thought Larry Lewis gave us a huge lift,” Ganot said. “People will talk about his 10 points … but it was more about a look and approach.
“In the first half, it was Matt Owies … those two, specifically, gave us a look and an excitement to play the game. How you can not have that is beyond me.”
Lewis, who entered the game with a total of four points this season, said: “I struggled for the first half of this season remembering plays and defensive floor positioning and all of that. But I just hope I can keep bringing the energy I brought tonight and just keep coming in strong and aggressive.”
Owies and Lewis combined for 17 points in the second half, when the Warriors pulled away. After shooting just 31 percent from the field in the first half, Hawai’i shot 65 percent in the second half, and finished at 44.9 percent (22 for 49) for the game.
UAPB did not help its own cause, shooting just 41 percent from the field, while attempting only 39 shots for the game (16 for 39). More telling, the Golden Lions went 5 for 17 from the free throw line (29.4 percent), and grabbed only five offensive rebounds while being out-rebounded by the Warriors, 29-24.
“At halftime (the talk) was about lacking energy and not ready to play,” Owies said. “When I got my opportunity I just made sure that I was ready to play and did my part to help the team. The boys also helped me to get going because I’ve had a bit of a struggle since I missed like a week-and-a-half of practice … It was really just being ready to go and pressuring on defense and pushing the ball on offense and trying to attack that zone.”
For the first time this season, Ganot made a change in the starting lineup. Sophomore walk-on guard Brocke Stepteau started in place of freshman Leland Green, but it did not pay immediate dividends. The Warriors went scoreless for the first 4:20 of the game, and fell behind 5-0. A fastbreak layup by Drammeh with 15:40 remaining in the first half was UH’s first made basket of the game.
“You better freakin’ come ready to compete,” Ganot said. “If you don’t, as you saw, we’ll try some other guys. I don’t care who you are. It’s meant too much to too many people to bring that kind of an effort to start the game.”
The Warriors finally got their shots to start falling midway through the first half, and an 8-1 run gave Hawai’i a 14-13 lead with 8:15 remaining. Hawai’i eventually took a 29-23 lead at intermission, despite shooting 31 percent (9 for 29) from the field, including 0 for 12 from 3-point range.
The Warriors were aided in the first half by 11 for 15 shooting from the free throw line, compared to UAPB’s 3 for 7.
The lineup changed again to start the second half, when Owies started in place of Stepteau.
“I’m not really sure,” Owies said of the future status of roles in the backcourt. “But Brocke, me and Sheriff will continue to attack each other in practice and get each other better. It doesn’t really matter who’s out on the court. We all look to attack and try and figure stuff out.”
The Warriors scored the first four points of the second half to increase their lead to 33-22. The Golden Lions never got closer than eight the rest of the way. Purchase scored seven points during a 13-0 Hawai’i surge that increased the lead to 54-32 with 5:12 remaining to secure the win.
Hawai’i finished the game 2 for 17 (11.8 percent) from 3-point range, but took advantage of 23 turnovers by the Golden Lions. Senior forward Noah Allen, who entered the game leading the Warriors with 17.8 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, was limited to seven points on 1-for-7 shooting, and five rebounds.
Junior forward Darryl Matthews, who has been recovering from an ankle injury, saw his first action of this season and scored his first point in a Hawai’i uniform on a free throw in the final minute.
After opening this season with seven games in 17 days, the Warriors will now play just two games in the next 24 days. Hawai’i will play Seton Hall and Princeton in the Pearl Harbor Invitational on December 6 and 7, respectively, and then will not play again until the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic on December 22.
“We have work to do, and I can’t say enough how appreciative we are that we get this practice time coming up,” Ganot said.
Game photos courtesy Matt Osumi and Chris Kadooka
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