Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Warriors regroup and ready for season opener

Forced to rebound quickly from an unexpected physical and emotional blow, the University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team has nonetheless declared itself ready for Friday’s season opener against visiting Mississippi Valley State.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Stan Sheriff Center’s SimpliFi Arena, marking not just the beginning of the Warriors’ 2022-23 campaign but also the first night of the annual Outrigger Rainbow Classic. UH will face Eastern Washington at 5 p.m. Sunday and Yale at 7 p.m. Monday in its other tournament games.

All three games will be broadcast live statewide on TV (Spectrum Sports Channels 12 and 1012) and radio (ESPN Honolulu 1420AM).

“It’s a big week, for sure,” said senior co-captain Samuta Avea. “I mean, last week (exhibition victory over UH-Hilo) was fun, good to get my feet wet a little bit and get that feeling again. But I think as a team, we know we can perform a lot better and it’ll be a good week of practice going into that.”

The Warriors maintained a comfortable lead throughout most of the 87-71 exhibition win on Nov. 3, but they were not pleased about their effort on defense and in rebounding — two areas that head coach Eran Ganot said should be staples of the program.

“I think we’ve always been process-oriented, and attacking the elephant-in-the-room kind of things,” Ganot said. “Our guys are very intelligent, and we can’t do what we’re going to do if we’re going to play this way. At the same time, we’re also realists, so if our rebounding is where it was (against Hilo), that’s who we are, and it’s not going to change tomorrow. So the message really is, ‘Let’s chip away at this, and get to where we want to be.’ Going into this year, we wanted to clean up our turnovers while maintaining our fundamentals and where we’ve been on the defense and rebounding end. 

“And obviously in that (Hilo) game, we made it very clear that the turnovers didn’t get fixed, and the defense and rebounding weren’t even close. The shooting was great and all that, the sharing of the ball, things like that. But … that is living and dying by the 3, which we do not do, because we are a balanced program. Including offensively, we’re inside-out, we take care of the ball. Defensively we defend, we rebound.”

Of course, UH also took a huge physical and emotional loss when projected starting point guard Juan Munoz suffered a season-ending achilles injury midway through the second half of the Hilo game. Munoz, a senior transfer who also missed all of last season due to injury, had excited the fans up to that point by scoring 16 points and dishing five assists while displaying an uncanny ability to drain long 3-pointers and also penetrate with a quick first step and nifty ball-handling.

Off the court, Munoz was a big inspiration and extremely supportive teammate.

But senior co-captain Kamaka Hepa said the team will still rely on Munoz for motivation and is ready to move on with his support from the bench.

“I have a lot of confidence in us, I think the past few practices we’ve had have been really good for us in terms of our energy level and attention to detail,” Hepa said on Tuesday. “Just because we understand the urgency that we need to continue to get better at. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of preparing ourselves for this first upcoming game, so I’m very excited to see what we can do.” 

Ganot said he also is excited, especially because a lot will be revealed with three games in four days.

“There’s so many advantages and positives, things that can happen when you throw them in the fire early,” Ganot said. “We’ve all been chomping at the bit to play games around the country, and I don’t know of many teams whose first games are (in) a tournament. You’re thrown into the fire because you’re playing three games in four days against different styles, different combinations, could be big, small, zone, man, press … And so just like that, this early in the year, I’m looking forward to that challenge. I’m looking forward (to see) if our guys can handle that. I’m excited about that, and our guys are excited about that.”

Mississippi Valley State opened its season at No. 5 Baylor on Monday, losing 117-53. 

“When we’re doing our prep work, we’re making sure we’re prepared for press, zone, man, traps — all those kinds of options, to the best of our ability,” Ganot said. “So we have a good idea of what we think we’re going to see.”

Hawai’i has won 12 of its past 13 season openers, with all 12 victories coming by double-digit margins.

When: Friday, November 11, 7:00 p.m.
Where: SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center
TV: Live on Spectrum Sports (Spectrum channels 12/1012)
Radio: ESPNHonolulu (92.7 FM/1420 AM)
Video streaming: ESPN+ (blacked out in Hawai’i)
Audio streaming: espnhonolulu.com or Sideline Hawaii app
Tickets: ETickethawaii.com
Parking: $7 to park in the Lower Campus Structure

2022 Outrigger Rainbow Classic Schedule
Friday, November 11

4:30 p.m. – Eastern Washington vs. Yale
7:00 p.m. – Hawai’i vs. Mississippi Valley State

Sunday, November 13
2:30 p.m. – Yale vs. Mississippi Valley State
5:00 p.m. – Hawai’i vs. Eastern Washington

Monday, November 14
4:30 p.m. – Mississippi Valley State vs. Eastern Washington
7:00 p.m. – Hawai’i vs. Yale

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