Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

UPDATED: Warriors open season with win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff

One day after the announced signings of three big men for the future, three of the current big men for the University of Hawai’i proved their worth in a season-opening 82-70 victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Friday night.

The inside trio of Gibson Johnson, Jack Purchase and Mike Thomas combined for 56 points on 17-for-30 shooting, 18 rebounds and 14 of the team’s 20 assists in the victory, which was part of the opening night of the three-day Outrigger Resorts Rainbow Classic.

“They set the tone,” head coach Eran Ganot said. “That’s 14 assists and two turnovers between those three returning frontcourt players. That’s amazing.”

Johnson added: “The good thing about the frontcourt we have is that everybody can pass. It’s size with passers. (Against) a zone, if you have bigs that can pass, that’s going to be the thing that brings them down.”

An announced crowd of 5,764 at the Stan Sheriff Center watched the Rainbow Warriors improve to 6-0 against the Golden Lions since 2010. However, this win over UAPB was not as easy as previous years.

“Every time we hit hard, they came back with a couple punches,” Johnson said. “I thought it was a good, tough game. We just stuck to what was working and got the W.”

Johnson, a 6-foot-8 senior, finished with 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting, nine rebounds and five assists. Purchase, a 6-9 junior, had 18 points on 8-of-15 shooting, and passed for a career-high eight assists.

“To me, passing is the funnest part of the game,” Purchase said. “I love getting assists.”

Thomas, a 6-7 senior who sat out last season as a redshirt due to a wrist injury, contributed 19 points and five rebounds. He went just 3 for 7 from the field, but was 13 for 16 on free throws. Hawai’i went 28 for 42 from the free-throw line, compared to 18 for 24 for UAPB.

Redshirt freshman Drew Buggs got the start at point guard, and scored only one point, but added seven rebounds and three assists.

Hawai’i played without junior guard Sheriff Drammeh, who did not attend the game due to illness.

The Warriors took a 5-3 lead early in the game on a 3-pointer by Purchase, and stayed in front the rest of the game. Hawai’i eventually took a 46-36 lead at intermission, with Johnson scoring 11 points on 4-for-4 shooting.

The Warriors increased their lead to 16 points early in the second half, but could never run away from the Golden Lions. UAPB went on a 17-4 run in the second half to get as close as 56-53 with 10:23 remaining.

Hawai’i responded with back-to-back 3-pointers by Purchase and Brandon Thomas to push the lead back up to 62-53, and the Golden Lions never got closer than eight after that.

Hawai’i went 25 for 51 from the field (49 percent), and 20 of the 25 made baskets came off assists. However, the Warriors shot just 4 for 20 (20 percent) from 3-point range and committed 15 turnovers.

“I think we had a unique combination – we shared the ball well, we didn’t take care of the ball well,” Ganot said. “But I thought the biggest strength of our team was unselfishness.”

UAPB shot just 36.8 percent from the field (21 for 57), but 38.5 percent from 3-point range (10 for 26). The Golden Lions also committed 15 turnovers, but had only 10 assists.

Martaveous McKnight scored a game-high 25 points to lead UAPB. Joe’Ranle Toliver added 17 points, and went 5 for 9 from 3-point range.

The four-team tournament will continue on Sunday, with Hawai’i set to host North Dakota at 5 p.m. UAPB will play Troy at 2:30 p.m.

In Friday’s first game, North Dakota defeated Troy, 83-80. North Dakota guard Geno Crandall scored 41 points, including 7-for=9 shooting from 3-point range.

CLICK HERE to view boxscore

(Photos courtesy Brandon Flores and Matt Osumi / www.brandonfloresphotography.com)

CLICK HERE to view more photos

Outrigger Resorts Rainbow Classic
Friday’s Results

North Dakota 83, Troy 80
Hawai’i 82, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 70

Sunday’s Games
Arkansas-Pine Bluff vs. Troy, 2:30 p.m.
Hawai’i vs. North Dakota, 5:00 p.m.

Monday’s Games
Arkansas-Pine Bluff vs. North Dakota, 4:30 p.m.
Hawai’i vs. Troy, 7:00 p.m.


  1. This game exposed some weaknesses—a big drop off after the big 3 and handling pressure situations. Bigs will have to stay out of foul trouble. Ido Flaisher played too many minutes due to Mike Thomas’ foul trouble. We need bigs in there because they work well together, but it puts a lot of pressure on the guards to bring up the ball. Stepteau has the most guard experience in pressure situations. Flaisher does well relieving Johnson, but leaving him in longer makes him a liability. Might have to go with 3 guards if bigs get into foul trouble, especially second half.

  2. Sure would be nice if someone would post the games. Even a few days late would be great. Never enough video.

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