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UPDATED: Warriors roll past HPU in exhibition, 81-45

With its mood more fiercely competitive than neighborly, the University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team ran all over visiting crosstown foe Hawai’i Pacific, 81-45, Friday night in a quick-but-impressive exhibition game victory.

A curious and appreciative crowd of about 1,800 at the Stan Sheriff Center watched junior post Zigmars Raimo score a game-high 20 points and grab eight rebounds, junior college transfer Eddie Stansberry add 12 points and senior forward Jack Purchase contribute 11 points, 10 boards and four assists as the Warriors led comfortably almost from start to finish.

Senior guard Brocke Stepteau added 10 points and four assists for UH, which opens its season on Friday at home vs. Portland in the Rainbow Classic opener.

Although the HPU game was officially an exhibition, don’t try telling any of the Warriors it did not count.

“We take every game seriously, so even if it is an exhibition game, we’re gonna bring energy, we’re going to bring 100 percent,” said Raimo, who was 9 for 11 from the field while scoring off several nice passes into the post. “We’re gonna come here and we’re gonna compete, we’re gonna battle every single game — it doesn’t matter if it’s an exhibition, if it’s a (regular) season game, a championship.”

After Spencer Vering opened the game with a turnaround jumper to give HPU it’s only lead, Drew Buggs scored on a driving layup to ignite a 17-2 run capped by Samuta Avea’s 3-point bank shot from the top of the key to make it 17-4 barely three minutes into the game.

Raimo later scored on a backdoor layup off of Purchase’s nifty no-look pass from the right wing to put Hawai’i ahead, 33-15, with 6:52 remaining in the first half, but Neema Namdar answered with a 3-pointer 40 seconds later to close it to 33-18.

Stepteau then responded with his own deep 3-pointer from the left wing, and then on the ensuing possession Raimo chased down a loose ball past halfcourt and sped toward the basket, finishing the play with a surprising slam dunk and poster-izing HPU’s Vering in the process.

“The dunk … the dunk was big for us, for sure,” said Stansberry. “The first group really set the tone, Zigs himself along with the rest of the guys, but that dunk got us amped — we were all off our seats, it was definitely a momentum (boost). I think that was a big play in that stretch of the game.”

Raimo, who saw limited playing time as a physical role player the previous two seasons, lost 15 pounds or more in the offseason and is noticeably sleeker and quicker as a result.

“There’s gonna be some games when he might not produce to that level, but he’s put himself into a position where he will always produce,” Warriors coach Eran Ganot said. “He’s so good defensively, he’s physical on the boards, and he’s starting to score more. He’s finding ways to score. … This is a guy who has transformed his body, and I think sometimes that’s the way it works — all these other results, these positive things that are happening for him, are a direct by-product of the sacrifice he’s made to change his body.

“I’m not a strength and conditioning guy, but you can probably jump higher at 230 than you can at 250, so it was nice to see a highlight from him. You could see the activity level, the flexibility, the explosiveness has improved … and you combine that with this now being his third year. He’s a lot more experienced now.”

The NCAA Division II Sharks got as close as 14 points early in the second half, but UH blew the game open soon after and led, 68-36, with just under four minutes remaining.

Just as he did in the “Green vs. White” intra-squad scrimmage two weeks ago, Stansberry showed off a high-elevation jump shot that can fill up the basket quickly and often. He was 5 for 8 from the field, including 2 for 5 from 3-point range and a couple of gliding fast break layups.

“I’m super excited … Coming out here and getting into this atmosphere, it’s great — the fans are great, my teammates, the cheerleaders, everyone, down to everything,” said Stansberry, who played the previous two seasons at City College of San Francisco. “I’m definitely excited and looking forward to (the season opener), the feel for it was great. I was itching to get my first game out here at this level. I love playing with these guys, because they know how to share the ball and we play for each other, not just ourselves.”

Fourth-year senior guard Sheriff Drammeh did not play due to a “nagging injury,” Ganot said, and so the starting five consisted of Buggs, Stepteau, Brandon Thomas, Purchase and Raimo.

But Ganot said that lineup could easily change, with no real drop-off as a result.

“The good thing is … this is a very unselfish team, because I think there are eight or nine guys you could play 20 minutes (each) a night,” Ganot said. “I think our challenge which our guys really embrace is we want to have the best bench in the league, and that bench could be interchangeable just like the starting lineup. I think they’re buying into that, and guys gave us a lift off the bench.”

Stansberry said the exhibition game was a welcome change from the daily practices, and the season opener will be an even better reward.

“We’re really competitive as a group, so we go at each other every day in practice and we’re just itching to play another team,” Stansberry said. “We’re itching every day, but we’re taking it a day at a time and then just trying to get better each day.”

CLICK HERE to view boxscore

(Game photos courtesy Matt Osumi)

CLICK HERE to view photo gallery

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for the video / report.
    At 3:24, Zigs looks like he could be a good running back.

  2. The placement of the under armor and UH logos on ganot’s shirt seems a bit off

  3. Zigmars looks like a totally different player. Kudos to him for working on his body and improving on all facets of his game.

  4. Should be a good year.. you only get better with practice and experience

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