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UPDATED: Warriors race past Samford, 94-73

Photo courtesy Brandon Flores 

Beating Samford at its own up-tempo game, Hawai’i raced past the visiting Bulldogs, 94-73, Sunday afternoon in nonconference men’s basketball action at the Stan Sheriff Center.

A sparse Sunday afternoon crowd of 2,928 watched Eddie Stansberry score 23 points and grab five rebounds and Justin Webster add 15 points as the Warriors improved to 7-3 heading into next week’s Diamond Head Classic. Samford, based in Birmingham, Ala. and representing the Southern Conference, fell to 6-6.

Dawson Carper added 14 points and five boards, Samuta Avea contributed 12 points and seven rebounds and Drew Buggs finished with 11 points, a career-high nine rebounds plus five assists for UH, which also got seven points, 11 boards and a career-high eight assists from Zigmars Raimo.

“Super proud of the group, that was a collective team effort,” Warriors acting head coach Chris Gerlufsen said. “From top to bottom, I thought every guy who played affected the game in a certain way, and that’s what you want to see as a coach. We had a tremendous week of practice, we talked to the team about stacking good days upon good days, and when you start doing that, it carries over into something like this. I think that’s a building block for us to move forward — every day is a chance to get better.”

Photo courtesy Brandon Flores

Hawai’i came out firing and rained five 3-pointers in the first eight minutes in dashing out to a 26-7 lead. The Bulldogs stormed back, however, and eventually closed it to 38-34 on Josh Sharkey’s driving layup with 2:49 remaining in the first half. The Warriors later ended the half with a 7-0 run to take a 47-36 lead into the locker room.

Buggs, in his third year as UH’s starting point guard, was sent to the bench after his second foul midway through the first half and Samford took advantage by increasing the backcourt pressure and forcing turnovers or bad possessions. Sharkey, the Bulldogs’ 5-foot-10 quicksilver point guard, was especially effective on both sides of the floor and had 15 points, three steals and two assists in the game’s first 20 minutes.

“I think we’ve played against some of the best point guards in America, from a stats standpoint, for sure, and Josh Sharkey tonight — add him to that list,” Gerlufsen said. “(He) has the ability to affect the game in a lot of different ways, he (finished with) six steals, five assists, 21 points … He’s a really good player, but we’ve seen that this year, and it’s all good, it’s all positive as we prepare for Big West (Conference) play. You want to play against good players, that’s how you get better. 

“I thought we struggled with Josh in the first half, he got going a bit, but we locked down better in the second half and I’m happy with how our group responded.”

Stansberry said the game plan against Sharkey was to try to force him to his left, but that was not easy to execute.

“Early on, I was more or less backing myself up into the screen, so he was getting the kind of looks he wanted,” Stansberry said. “At halftime, my coaches and teammates were letting me know that, and I was just trying to focus in on how I could do better in the second half. In the first half, he was able to go left or right, and I just tried to take that away from him in the second half. Especially against a guard like him, who is quick and crafty.”  

Photo courtesy Brandon Flores

The Warriors opened the second half with a 10-0 run to push ahead, 57-36, after Buggs’ 3-pointer from the right corner, and Samford could not get closer than 16 points the rest of the way. 

Buggs finished the game 4-for-4 from the field, including 3-for-3 from 3-point range, and had five assists with only one turnover.

“Drew really stepped up, and that’s good to see,” Gerlufsen said. “He’s been super hard on himself with the turnovers … (but) I thought it was a really good floor game by him. He was talking, he was leading. We need Drew to do that on a nightly basis in order for us to be as good as we can be. When Drew is at his best, we’re going to be hard to deal with. He really sets the table for us.”

Stansberry recorded his seventh 20-point game of this season, and went 5 for 16 from 3-point range. His 16 3-point attempts set a new UH game record, topping the previous mark of 14.

As a team, the Warriors shot 13 for 33 from 3-point range, The 13 made 3s was one shy of the school record, and the 33 attempts from beyond the arc tied the UH game record, previously set in 2001.

The 94 points scored by Hawai’i was its highest total since January 2017, when it scored 114 in an overtime win over Long Beach State.

UH starts final exam week Monday, and then will begin Diamond Head Classic play against Texas-El Paso at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

“I have a final (Monday) at 9 a.m., and my major is Finance, so I have a lot of stuff to do and I’m probably going to be up all night (studying),” Raimo said. “But that’s what we signed up for, we are student-athletes, we take care of business on and off the court. That’s why we’re here, and education is a big part of our program.”

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