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UPDATED: Warriors shoot past UH-Hilo, 82-64

After breaking through an early scoreless duel, Hawai’i surged past visiting intrastate rival UH-Hilo, 82-64, in nonconference men’s basketball action Saturday night.

An appreciative crowd of 5,003 (tickets issued) at the Stan Sheriff Center watched Mike Thomas score 13 points and grab seven rebounds and Drew Buggs add 13 points and five boards as the Warriors improved to 6-2. Trey Ingram scored a game-high 14 points for the Vulcans. The final result and statistics will count for the Division I Warriors, but it is considered an exhibition for the NCAA Division II Vulcans, who remain with a 3-4 record.

Sheriff Drammeh added 12 points, four rebounds and three assists, and Jack Purchase added 10 points, four boards and four assists off the bench for UH.

“I thought we played pretty well for the middle 20 minutes of the game,” Warriors coach Eran Ganot said. “We didn’t play really well at the start and we didn’t play really well at the finish, and that’s disappointing. We’ve been trying to get to a game where we can play our depth, and play some guys who have worked hard in practices. I’ve always said we’ve got some good guys, good players who are playing behind good players. But we haven’t really gotten to that point, because we continue to have this recurring habit of not extending these leads.

“Today we were in a situation where we could play those guys … but my disappointment is (on) the defensive end during that stretch to finish the game because you work so hard, it takes a lot of time to build good habits. But you can break them pretty quick. That’s probably the only disappointment and that’s what we communicated to our team.”

Both teams struggled from the field in the game’s first four minutes, with Drammen’s 3-pointer from the top of the key finally breaking a scoreless tie at the 15:41 mark and ending a combined streak of 12 missed field goals.

UH led 7-0 after Purchase’s layup two minutes later, as the Vulcans continued to miss baskets.

UH-Hilo eventually closed it to 11-9 on Ingram’s jumper from the right wing midway through the first half, but the Warriors answered with a 17-2 run bookended by Thomas’ putback of his own miss with 8:40 remaining and his free throw five minutes later.

Hawai’i built the lead to 38-19 after Buggs’ two free throws 35.5 seconds before halftime.

“We knew that at the beginning of the game we were getting good looks, and that if we just kept playing the right way eventually our shots would start falling,” said Buggs, the starting point guard. “So we just wanted to really make an emphasis to really play hard on the defensive end, and just hold them to as few points as possible.”

The Warriors opened the second half with a 7-2 run capped by Leland Green’s fast break layup off Drammeh’s assist to make it 45-21 at the 18:23 mark, then later stretched it to 68-38 after Purchase’s 3-pointer from the left corner with 10:10 remaining in the game.

It was a breakthrough second half for Purchase, who had been mired in a severe shooting slump for much of the season. In the five previous games, Purchase made just 3 of 26 attempts (11.5 percent) from beyond the arc, and his only attempt in Saturday’s first half went over the rim completely.

“It’s good to see a couple fall, you know,” said Purchase, who finished 3-for-8 from the field, including 2 for 5 from 3-point range, along with two free throws in four attempts. “Everybody knows I’ve been in a bit of a slump … Just getting to the line and seeing the ball go in a couple times always helps. Your confidence starts rising, and helps with your next shot.”

The Vulcans closed it to 76-58 after University High grad Anthony Canencia’s deep 3-pointer from the left wing capped a 20-8 run with 3:21 left, but seldom-used reserve Zach Buscher answered with a nifty double-pump scoop shot a minute later to effectively seal the victory by pushing the lead back to 20 at 78-58. It was the first basket of this season for Buscher, an ‘Iolani School graduate.

“That was sweet — Kailua boy with the little up-and-under,” Buggs said. “He works hard every day in practice, he always has a great attitude, and he’s always deserving to get out there … so it’s great to see him out there and playing hard.”

Said Purchase: “That was great, wasn’t it? Everybody was excited, he’s a fan favorite.”

Freshman forward Samuta Avea, who contributed eight points and five rebounds, ended the scoring for the Warriors with a putback dunk.

Twelve players saw action for the Warriors, and 11 of them scored. Hawai’i hit a season-high 10 3-pointers, and also tied a season-high with 20 assists. Sophomore forward Zigmars Raimo had his best game of the season, finishing with eight points and four rebounds.

Monday marks the beginning of Final Exams week at UH, so Ganot said it is time to shift focus a bit before the next game — vs. Utah Valley on Dec. 17 at the SSC.

“I know we gotta shift gears now, everybody is going through the same thing as we head toward Finals Week,” Ganot said. “We’ve got to shift gears with an academic focus, re-charge the batteries and then get better.”

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(Game photos courtesy Chris Kadooka)

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