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UPDATED: Warriors shoot past UH-Hilo in home exhibition

If there were any doubt about the high standards set for the 2022-23 University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team, look no further┬áthan Thursday night’s 87-71 exhibition victory over visiting UH-Hilo.

Despite hot shooting (61 percent from the field, including 46 percent from 3-point range) and comfortable leads of 45-32 at halftime and 54-34 early into the second period, the Warriors were disappointed by several defensive lapses and a 30-30 deadlock in the rebounding column, and especially a 13-7 deficit on the offensive glass.

“We put an emphasis on defense, and we didn’t do that — me included, starting with me,” said UH guard Noel Coleman, who scored a game-high 24 points including six 3-pointers on eight attempts. “(Our) shots were falling, but I’m not really that happy about the game today. We knew exactly what we were up against, but we just didn’t execute, we didn’t play defense at all … I think rebounding was a big part of it, and it’s not just on the bigs, it’s on all of us. We just didn’t do a good job defensively and on our rebounds.”

A curious and appreciative crowd of 1,608 at SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center watched point guard Juan Munoz make his Warriors debut with 16 points and five assists and Kamaka Hepa added 11 points and six rebounds as Hawai’i took an early 11-9 lead on Samuta Avea’s layup with 15:37 remaining in the first half and never relinquished it thereafter. Carlos Ramsey Jr. scored 21 points, Aniwaniwa Tait-Jones added 14 points and Darren Williams contributed 13 points for the Vulcans.

Avea, a sixth-year senior wing and co-captain who opted out of the 2020-21 COVID season and took a medical redshirt last year, came off the bench and entered the game to warm applause at the 16:43 mark.

“That’s Hawai’i,” UH coach Eran Ganot said. “We have a very knowledgeable fan base that cares a lot about our student-athletes here. So yeah, that probably felt really good for him, and I’m happy but not surprised our fans did that for him and will do that for our guys. He’s been through a lot … with the setbacks that he’s had, to feel that from the crowd, that’s why we’ve got great fans. And we’re gonna need that going forward.”

The fans also were greatly entertained by Munoz, a fifth-year senior transfer who also sat out last year on a medical redshirt. He scored 13 of his points in the first half on 5 of 8 shooting, including 3 of 6 from 3-point range, and also dazzled the crowd with some nifty ball-handling and quick drives to the basket.

“He was tremendous,” Ganot said. “To see what he is capable of … he is a player. He’s a great shooter, he’s got a great feel, he studies the film, he loves the game, he’s got good handles, he’s tough on ball screens. And one of the more underrated things about him is his ability to anticipate, he thinks ahead. And he’s a gamer. He’s fun to watch, he’s fun to play with, he’s fun to be around. We think the world of him.”

Hawai’i led 45-32 at halftime and stretched it to 54-34 three minutes into the second half, and Hilo could not get closer than the final score.

Shortly after Coleman hit back-to-back 3-pointers to extend the lead to 70-46, Munoz exited the game and disappeared into the tunnel leading to the locker room, not to return. 

“I was told there was a no-contact setback (injury),” Ganot said. “We’re waiting to find out (more), we gotta find out what’s going on. It’s hard to not be emotional, because nobody should go through any of this. Certainly him, who’s already been through it. (He’s) one of the big inspirations I’ve ever been around, and I just ask everybody to pray for him.” 

The Warriors officially open the season at 7 p.m. on Nov. 11 against visiting Mississippi Valley State in the Outrigger Rainbow Classic.

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1 Comment

  1. Praying for Juan! He’s worked too hard and waited much too long to go out on injury after one exhibition game! With him we are legit 11 deep and are set to give the Big west a serious run for it’s money! Surprised Mor Sek did not get a ton of playing time but it did look like he got into a bit of foul trouble. Looking forward to seeing more of him soon

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