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UPDATED: Warriors rout Maine, 91-51, in Ganot’s return as head coach

Eran Ganot wanted to make a quiet return as head coach of the University of Hawai’I basketball team. All the Rainbow Warriors did to honor that was score a resounding 91-51 victory over Maine on Sunday evening.

A crowd of 2,811 at the Stan Sheriff watched Ganot take his familiar role as the leader of the Warriors for the first time this season while leading them to the largest margin of victory during his five-year tenure. Hawai’i also snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 9-5. Maine, which is from the  America East Conference, dropped to 3-10.

“There’s times you’ll maybe get the result you want but you maybe didn’t play right,” Ganot said. “But I thought we got the result (tonight) because we played right and that helps long term.”

Ganot missed the team’s first 13 games while on an undisclosed medical leave of absence.

“It’s all about … getting back to normal with everything,” he said. “It doesn’t always happen like that, but today was a good step. The last couple days in this stretch have been very unique and challenging and rewarding at times, too. I’ve said from Day 1 during this process how thankful I am for the quality people we have in this program and this community … it was nice to be back in there with them, I know that much.”

Photo courtesy Brandon Flores

It was just the eighth time in the history of the program that the Warriors beat a collegiate opponent by 40 or more points. The last time it happened was during the 2013-14 season against NCAA Division II Hawai’i-Hilo. The last time a Hawai’i team beat another NCAA-I opponent by 40 or more points was during the 2006-07 season (an 85-41 victory over Oregon State).

In addition to welcoming back its head coach, Hawai’i also welcomed back needed shooting from leading scorers Eddie Stansberry and Samuta Avea, and saw a debut collegiate start for freshman forward Bernardo da Silva.

Stansberry led the Warriors with 21 points, including 4-for-8 shooting from 3-point range. In his three previous games in the Diamond Head Classic, he scored a total of 18 points and shot 2 for 28 from 3-point range.

“The intention was to run (against) these guys,” Stansberry said. “We knew that this team was a slow-paced team. Kind of just push the ball and get ahead. Whoever was the man ahead, kick it to them and get early transition buckets. It wasn’t just for me, it was for everyone … that was kind of the game plan, just to speed it up and play our style of ball.”

Ultimately, every Warrior benefited. Hawai’i shot a season-high 58.2 percent from the field as a team, and all 11 available players scored at least two points each.

Avea, a junior forward, tallied a career-high 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting. He scored 15 in the first half, including two highlight-reel dunks, helping the Warriors seize control of the game early.

“I think we’re a real unselfish group,” Avea said. “Drew (Buggs) makes a lot happen for us and he makes our job easy. Everybody just does their job and we share the ball well.”

Photo courtesy Chris Kadooka

Freshman guard Justin Webster added 12 points and fellow freshman da Silva finished with 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting and six rebounds.

Senior forward Zigmars Raimo contributed eight points and eight rebounds, and Buggs had six points and seven assists.

“Really proud of the effort,” Ganot said. “I think the effort and inspired play led to some great things, which were great balance on both sides of the ball, great balance in special teams areas, and rebounding.”

Maine looked overmatched from the start.

Hawai’i opened the game by shooting 4 for 5 from the field and 2 for 2 on free throws to take a 13-3 lead that it would not relinquish the rest of the game. Stansberry opened the game with a 3-pointer and went 3 for 3 from 3-point range in the game’s first six minutes.

“As a shooter and just a player in general, seeing your first one go in is always a good feeling,” Stansberry said. “For me, I was excited to see it go in, but it was pretty well set up where I had enough time to get a shot off and a good look.”

The Warriors led by as many as 20 points late in the first half and held a 44-27 lead at halftime. A 19-2 surge early in the second half increased the lead to 71-34.

With 8:38 remaining in the second half and the Hawai’I lead at 78-40, Ganot allowed the reserves to finish the remainder of the game.

Sophomore forward Justin Hemsley made spectacular plays on both ends of the court during those final minutes, including a two-handed follow dunk and a chase-down blocked shot on a Maine fast break.

Photo courtesy Brandon Flores

“That was really fun for us to cheer them on, and they played great at the end of the game,” Avea said. “We had a lot of fun. A lot of things were clicking early and once we got ahead, the main focus was to get the guys who also deserved to be in the game.”

Up next for the Warriors is the start of the Big West Conference regular season. They will travel for road games at Cal State Fullerton on January 9 and at UC Irvine on January 11. The next home game is scheduled for January 16 against Cal Poly.

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1 Comment

  1. Good to see coach return and they got the win!

    I’m excited to watch conference play!

    Go Bows!!

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