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UPDATED: Warriors scoot past Howard, 84-59

Reversing the trend of sluggish second halves in a big way, Hawai’i doubled-up on visiting Howard in the final 20 minutes Friday night and pulled away for an emphatic 84-59 non-conference men’s basketball victory.

A Stan Sheriff Center crowd of 5,296 (tickets issued) watched Jack Purchase score a season-high 22 points — including six 3-pointers — and Sheriff Drammeh add 17 points to help the Warriors improve to 9-4 heading into next Thursday’s Big West Conference opener at Long Beach State. Brocke Stepteau and Mike Thomas each added 13 points and Gibson Johnson contributed 11 points as UH immediately bounced back from a loss for the fourth straight time this season.

RJ Cole scored 22 points and Kyle Foster added 12 points for Howard, which fell to 3-13.

The Bison actually had the game tied at 38-38 early in the second half, but a 17-0 run by the Warriors soon after broke open the game as Purchase’s 3-pointer with 11:25 remaining put Hawai’i in front, 61-43. The Bison could not get closer than 14 points the rest of the way.

“(It was) a step in the right direction, the way we played the second half,” Warriors coach Eran Ganot said. “Good habits take a long time to build, so we can’t say we’ve answered the second-half (problems) with one game, but it was a start. A big part of it is our approach and our aggressiveness, our energy, our talk. That was a complete effort defensively, offensively, on the glass … in that second half. In the first half, it was one-sided, more offensively. Defensively, we made the change and credit our guys for not playing on their heels and being a little more aggressive, and it started with doing a good job on the point of attack.”

In the first half, that attack came mostly from Cole, a dynamic 6-foot-1 freshman guard who entered Friday ranked No. 23 in the nation in scoring average (21.6 points per game) and 25th in assists per game (6.0). Cole poured in 17 points in the first 20 minutes on 6-for-9 shooting, including 3 for 4 from 3-point range.

After Purchase hit a 3-pointer to cap a 10-2 run that put UH ahead, 17-7, with 13:10 remaining in the first half, Charles Williams responded 11 seconds later with a 3-pointer of his own to start Howard on a 15-4 surge culminating in Cole’s quick jab-step-and-launch from the top of the arc which gave the Bison a 24-23 lead with 6:45 left.

The teams then mostly traded baskets with Foster draining a fadeaway 3-pointer from the left corner to put Howard up, 36-35, with 28 seconds on the clock. Purchase swished a 3-pointer just before the halftime horn to give the Warriors a 38-36 lead at the break.

“Coach (Ganot) kind of lit into us (at halftime),” said Thomas, who finished with a game-high seven rebounds. “The game should not have been that close in the first half. It woke us up, and we had the right attitude going into the second half. It was the coaches … and us just making a decision.”

After Williams hit two free throws to tie the score at 38-38 just 12 seconds into the second half, Johnson scored on a layup off Thomas’ assist to give Hawai’i the lead for good 14 seconds later. Cameron Lewis closed it to 44-43 after two free throws with 17:28 remaining in the game, but Drew Buggs dropped in a mid-range jumper on the other end to start the Warriors on their 17-0 run capped by Purchase’s 3-pointer which made it 61-43 with 11:25 left to play.

Purchase, who went 0 for 3 in Monday morning’s 77-63 loss to Princeton, went 4 for 5 from 3-point range in the second half Friday.

“I felt good today,” Purchase said. “My teammates did a great job finding me, credit to them, they put me in good position and got me the ball.”

Defensively, Stepteau was assigned to Cole and held him to just five points in the second half.

“Brocke gets a lot of talk right now for his (offensive) efficiency levels — his percentages across the board are tremendous — but this has been coming on, his defensive focus,” Ganot said. “Sometimes you don’t see it in the box score, but he’s been one of, if not our our best, defenders. And he did it again today against an elite scorer.”

Unlike in some other games this season, UH kept its foot on the gas pedal throughout the second half and eventually built the lead to 78-55 after Purchase’s sixth and final 3-pointer, with 2:48 remaining.

“It felt great,” Thomas said. “And in this fashion — we hadn’t been doing well closing out games playing in the second half, so to come out with energy and passion and fire and finish the game out was really big for us.”

The Warriors will have Saturday off before returning to practice Sunday in preparation for next week’s Big West road games at Long Beach State on Thursday and at Cal State Northridge on Jan. 6.

CLICK HERE to view boxscore

(Game photos courtesy Brandon Flores and Chris Kadooka

2 Comments

  1. Great way to make the adjustments in the second half! Good momentum

    Going into conference play. I think if the Bows can be consistent they have a great chance of beating anybody in this league!

    Thank you warrior insider for the great coverage as always!

  2. Riverside coach Dennis Cutts was cut as the coach.

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