Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

UPDATED: Warriors hold off Pepperdine, 76-70, in Classic opener

After learning the cardinal rule of not turning your back on the Waves, the Hawai’i men’s basketball team withstood the rising tide Thursday night and held off Pepperdine, 76-70, in the opening round of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.

Photo courtesy Matt Osumi

An energetic and vocal crowd of 3,713 in SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center plus a national TV audience on ESPN2 watched Noel Coleman score 22 points and Kamaka Hepa add 19 points as the Warriors improved to 7-3 and advanced to Friday’s 7 p.m. semifinal against Washington State (5-6). Maxwell Lewis scored a game-high 23 points to lead the Waves, who fell to 6-6.

Junior point guard JoVon McClanahan added a career-high 17 points and Samuta Avea contributed 11 points and 10 rebounds to produce his first double-double for UH, which led 38-24 at halftime and was ahead 60-46 after Hepa’s putback with 7:25 remaining. But Houston Mallette answered with a three-point play to start Pepperdine on a 10-0 run capped by Malik Moore’s two free throws to close it to 60-56 with 4:36 left. The Warriors then stretched the lead to 71-60 after McClanahan’s two free throws with 1:13 remaining, but the Waves cut it to 74-70 after Jevon Porter’s 3-pointer with 15.1 ticks on the clock.

McClanahan then sank both free throws a half second later and Pepperdine could not score on its next possession.

“It was difficult,” Hawai’i coach Eran Ganot said. “I am pleased with — when they cut it to four (points), how we handled that and extended. I am disappointed in the way we let them back in the game, but we knew they are a 40-minute cover. Overall, I am really happy for our team. Great win, great atmosphere, great venue. That’s why this tournament is so great.”

McClanahan entered the game averaging 6.1 points per outing, but opened the game with a 3-pointer from the left wing to help the Warriors jump out to an 8-2 run in the first four minutes. The Waves responded with a 7-2 comeback to close it to 10-9 on Lewis’ turnaround jumper, but UH came right back with an 11-3 surge to make it 21-12 on Coleman’s 3-pointer from beyond the top of the key. 

Photo courtesy Matt Osumi

After Lewis then hit back-to-back bank shots, Coleman swished another 3 to start a 15-6 run that stretched the lead to 36-22 after Coleman’s layup with 2:15 remaining in the first half. 

“We were watching the film, and we thought we could go at them offensively on the pick-and-roll,” said McClanahan, whose previous career high was 15 points against Yale on Nov. 14. “They were kind of switching a lot in the beginning, and I feel like our guards were exploiting that and just getting to the rim early and building a lead off of that. Just attacking their bigs and getting to the rim.”

The Warriors built the lead to 55-36 after two free throws by Avea with 12:50 remaining, and led 58-42 at the midway point of the second half. But Lewis then converted two free throws followed by a layup, and after Hepa’s putback made it 60-46, Mallette answered with his three-point play and Moore drained a 3-pointer. Mallette then made a layup and Moore sank two free throws to cut it to 60-56.

“I thought we played really well for 80 to 90 percent of the game, but the 10 percent we didn’t, we were brutal,” Ganot said. “And that’s how a team can get back in the game, a team with that kind of firepower. So we live and learn.”

McClanahan finally made one of two free throws to break the run, and he later scored six straight points to help extend the lead to 71-60 with just over a minute left. McClanahan then made all four of his free throws in the final 35 seconds to seal the victory, finishing 9 for 12 from the line.

“He is an offensive weapon … and we keep telling him that he is going to get there,” Coleman said. “He is finding his way again. In high school he was really good (in scoring), and in (junior college) he was really good. But he still had to figure out his way in a news system (here). I think he’s figuring it out.”

Photo courtesy Matt Osumi

Ganot said despite 19 turnovers, his team showed its high ceiling.

“If we can put it all together at the same time, you can see how good we can be, and the potential there,” Ganot said. “But it’s not easy, the game is not easy, it’s very humbling. If you take your foot off the pedal against teams like that, they can get back in the game. But if I was proud of something after that, it was when they cut it to four, we executed well and brought it back to 11. That was a great sense of maturity.”

Pepperdine entered the game averaging 10.0 3-pointers per game, but made a season-low four from beyond the arc. The Warriors’ defense continues to lead all NCAA-I teams for fewest 3-pointers allowed at 45.

Hawai’i will be playing in the semifinals of the Diamond Head Classic for just the fifth time in 13 tournaments. Washington State advanced to the semifinals when Jabe Mullins hit a 3-pointer with 3.1 seconds remaining to give the Cougars a first-round win over George Washington.

SMU will face Utah State in Friday’s other semifinal at 2:00 p.m. Pepperdine will face George Washington in a consolation game at 5:00 p.m.

Friday’s semifinal game between Hawai’i and Washington State will be televised nationally on ESPN2.

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Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic
Thursday’s Results
SMU 85, Iona 81
Utah State 84, Seattle 56
Washington State 66, George Washington 64
Hawai’i 76, Pepperdine 70

Friday’s Games
11:30 a.m. – Iona vs. Seattle
2:00 p.m. – SMU vs. Utah State
5:00 p.m. – George Washington vs. Pepperdine
7:00 p.m. – Hawai’i vs. Washington State

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