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UPDATED: Warriors hold off UH-Hilo, 82-75

Every once in a while, “little brother” shows big brother he is growing up.

That was the sense at the Stan Sheriff Center on Saturday night, when the University of Hawaii at Hilo men’s basketball team gave “big brother” UH Manoa all it could handle before the Warriors finally secured a hard-fought 82-75 victory.

A bewildered crowd of about 2,200 watched Eddie Stansberry score 19 points — including five 3-pointers in the second half — off the bench and Drew Buggs add 16 points, seven assists and two steals as the Warriors snapped a three-game losing streak to improve to 5-4. Zigmars Raimo added 13 points, five rebounds and three steals, Brocke Stepteau contributed 11 points and Jack Purchase added 10 points, nine boards and four assists for Hawai’i, which took the lead for good midway through the first half but could not extend it past 13 points at any point thereafter.

Former Kalaheo High School standout Kupa’a Harrison led all players with 21 points and 10 rebounds to go with five assists for Hilo, which also got 20 points from UNLV transfer Larry Bush and 16 points and a game-high four steals from Jalen Thompson. The Division II Vulcans remain at 3-3 because it was a non-counting exhibition for them. The Vulcans seemed to treat it like a counting game from start to finish, and they got as close as 75-69 with 3:21 remaining and made a big overall impression on Warriors coach Eran Ganot.

“I want to give Hilo a lot of credit,” Ganot said “Credit them, credit G.E. (Coleman) and his staff, and his team for really giving a great effort today. We were fortunate (to win).”

After the Vulcans took a surprising 11-9 lead on Bush’s 3-pointer from the left wing with 14:34 remaining in the first half, Purchase answered with a 3-pointer from the left wing at the 14-minute mark to put Hawai’i ahead for good at 12-11. The Warriors later used an 11-3 run capped by Stepteau’s 3-pointer to stretch the lead to 29-20 with 4:38 left, but Hilo hung around and closed it to 37-31 by halftime.

“All the credit to UH-Hilo — they really came out to compete, they came out to win,” Buggs said. “That’s something that we gotta work on, we gotta come out with more fire at the beginning of the game, because we got off to a slow start. But all credit to them — they really came out there and competed today.”

The Vulcans played even better in the second half despite not having starting guard James Griffin, who went down with a foot injury six minutes into the game and did not return. Griffin entered the game as Hilo’s leading scorer, averaging 17 points per game.

The Vulcans closed it to 43-41 on Denhym Brooke’s fast-break layup with 16:45 remaining, but Stansberry responded with a 3-pointer from the right corner 24 seconds later and Buggs followed with a 15-foot pull-up jumper from the right side to push the lead back to seven at 48-41. Hilo later closed it to 52-50 after Harrison sank two free throws and then swished a 3-pointer from the right corner with 13:09 left, but Stansberry again answered — this time with two 3-pointers in an 80-second span to help widen the lead to 60-50 at the 12:30 mark.

UH then was able to keep that relative distance but could not extend it wider than 13 points, when it led 71-58 after yet another 3-pointer by Stansberry with 7:38 showing on the clock. Hilo then hung around and eventually closed it to 75-69 on Bush’s floater with 3:21 remaining.

Buggs finally gave the Warriors some much-needed breathing room after driving through for a tough finish and ensuing free throw to make the score 78-69 at the two-minute mark, and then Stepteau effectively sealed the victory by draining a 3-pointer from the left wing to put Hawai’i ahead, 81-71, with 1:14 left.

After Harrison closed it to 81-73 with a mid-range jumper with 51.6 seconds remaining, Buggs made one of two free throw attempts nine seconds later to make it 82-73 with 42.6 seconds left. The Vulcans closed it to 82-75 about 20 seconds later, but the Warriors were able to dribble out the remaining time.

While giving Hilo well-deserved credit for the closer-than-expected margin of victory, Ganot also said UH did not live up to expectations defensively.

The Vulcans shot 52.8 percent from the field, including 8 for 23 (34.8 percent) from 3-point range. It is the highest field goal percentage allowed so far this season by the Warriors.

“We did a really good job offensively, but they had us everywhere else,” Ganot said. “They out-scrapped us for loose balls and on the boards, and unfortunately we were consistent in both halves defensively. Our offense probably saved us, but we have work to do.”

The Warriors will now take some time off to prepare for final exams before returning to practice later in the week to prepare for their next game, at home Dec. 16 against Mississippi Valley State.

Hawai’i junior guard Leland Green was not with the team on Saturday night, and Ganot said “he’s right now away dealing with a personal matter.”

Starting guard Sheriff Drammeh finished with three points, but did not play at all in the second half.

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(Game photos courtesy Chris Kadooka and Brandon Flores)

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3 Comments

  1. Lot of bench could have played. You can see any level below manoa they handle go to rim shoot fearless will give warriors trouble. I think lower bwc teams will be tough on rainbows. Hard close win to watch. Give Hilo credit if played on big island probably good big win for vulcans. Hawaii has to play 40 minutes full pressure defense. Ganot put in quickest defenders start game and finish. Hope bows win DHC! Go Bows!

  2. Hilo was well coached, had playmakers and a good defensive scheme. They only have 1 assistant coach listed on their roster.
    Sheriff had a wrist injury, per the radio broadcast.

  3. Try to be really positive, some bright light with MBB program now. Good kids, students, hope Leland will be happy. Eran has to search that eastern european connection , Savo, Burneika, Puida, Jankovic, or Northwest Pacific, Mark Campbell, Canada, English, Martin, Oregon..Kuebler, or midwest JC, JC carter, I don’t know some active smart shooters, and especially with the past MBB successful teams, tough defenders.. have to shut down. Maybe Hawaii Too Big. Oh well, only can go UP! Go Bows. Fans , 2000 or so, give them credit. true die hard fans. Hawaii gets it going defensively and handle pressure defense, stop dribble drive, they can win bwc hopefully . March Madness again ! Hey just try to stay positive, year 4 very key in athletic programs. Go Bows !

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