Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Warriors face Pepperdine in Diamond Head Classic opener on Thursday

Well-rested and well-educated, the University of Hawai’i basketball team returns to its home court this week with a heretofore elusive Christmas gift at the top of its wish list.

Photo courtesy Matt Osumi

After defeating Saint Francis (Pa.) on December 7, the Rainbow Warriors took last week off to focus on academic finals. This week, they are one of eight teams in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic at SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center.

The three-day tournament will feature four games on Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Hawai’i will face Pepperdine on the opening night at 6:00 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN2 and broadcast on radio via ESPN Honolulu (92.7 FM, 1420 AM, espnhonolulu.com, Sideline Hawaii app).

The Warriors are 6-3 and seeking to win the DHC championship for the first time in tournament history. The DHC started in 2009, and Hawai’i has yet to advance to the championship game – which is annually played on Christmas Day.

The last time a Hawai’i team won an eight-team non-conference tournament was the 2006 Rainbow Classic. Eran Ganot was UH’s director of basketball operations under head coach Riley Wallace during that season.

Ganot is now in his eighth season as head coach of the Warriors, with a 7-10 record in previous DHC tournaments.

The only way to reach the DHC championship is to win the opening day game, and Hawai’i has an all-time record of 4-8 in DHC openers.

The Warriors did win a four-team tournament trophy this season, defeating Texas State in the championship game of the Patty Mills North Shore Classic in November.

Hawai’i has used the same starting lineup in all nine games this season: Noel Coleman and JoVon McClanahan at guards, Samuta Avea and Kamaka Hepa at forwards, and Bernardo da Silva at center. Not surprisingly, those are the top five statistical performers.

Photo courtesy Chris Kadooka

Coleman, a 6-foot-2 junior, leads the team in scoring at 14.7 points per game. Hepa, a 6-10 senior, is second on the team in scoring (12.7) and first in rebounding (7.1) and 3-pionters (20). He is coming off a monster double-double of 30 points and 14 rebounds in his last game.

Da Silva, a 6-9 junior, is contributing 9.9 points and 7.0 rebounds per game and leads the team with a .559 field goal percentage. Avea, a 6-6 senior, is at 9.3 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. McClanahan, a 5-10 junior, is at 6.1 points and 2.8 assists per game.

Sophomores Justus Jackson and Beon Riley, and freshman Harry Rouhliadeff have been the main contributors off the bench.

Hawai’i’s key to success this season has been its defense. The Warriors are limiting opponents to 60.4 points per game on .399 field goal shooting. Most impressive, the Warriors have allowed the fewest 3-pointers (41) in all of NCAA-I, and are limiting opponents to a .275 percentage on 3-point shots.

Pepperdine from the West Coast Conference will provide an intriguing opening test for the Hawai’i defense on Thursday. The Waves are 6-5, and have experienced highs (a 106-67 home win over Rice) and lows (a 100-53 road loss at UCLA). Among Big West Conference foes familiar to Hawai’i followers, the Waves beat UC Irvine (64-55), and lost to Cal State Fullerton (74-71) and UC Santa Barbara (67-64).

Pepperdine ranks among the national leaders for 3-pointers made (10.0 per game) and 3-point percentage (.406).

From the something’s gotta give category: Pepperdine has scored 70 or more points in eight of 11 games this season, while Hawai’i has allowed only one opponent to reach 70.

The Waves also have one of the significant “players to watch” in this year’s DHC field. Maxwell Lewis, a 6-7 sophomore forward, is projected as a first-round pick in the 2023 NBA Draft in numerous mock drafts. He is playing up to the hype so far, averaging 18.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.

Pepperdine usually starts four sophomores and a freshman. Houston Mallette, a 6-5 sophomore, is averaging 14.0 points and 4.5 rebounds per game; Mike Mitchell Jr., a 6-2 sophomore, is averaging 11.4 points and 4.9 assists per game and leads the team with 30 3-pointers and a .492 percentage from 3-point range. Jevon Porter, a 6-11 freshman, is the team’s main inside presence with 10.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.

Photo courtesy Brandon Flores

The Waves have a veteran leader in Lorenzo Romar, who is in his 26th season as a NCAA-I head coach. In addition to Pepperdine, he also coached at Saint Louis and Washington.

HAWAI’I (6-3) vs. PEPPERDINE (6-5)
When: December 22, 6:00 p.m. (full tournament schedule below)
Where: SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center
Tickets: Visit https://espnevents.com/hawaiian-airlines-diamond-head-classic/tickets/ for more information.
Video streaming: espn.com/watch
Radio: ESPN Honolulu (92.7 FM, 1420 AM, espnhonolulu.com, Sideline Hawaii app)

Thursday, December 22
10:00 a.m. – Iona vs. SMU
12:00 p.m. – Seattle vs. Utah State
4:00 p.m. – George Washington vs. Washington State
6:00 p.m. – Pepperdine vs. Hawai’i

Friday, December 23
11:30 a.m. – Consolation game 1
2:00 p.m.  – Semifinal game 1
5:00 p.m. – Pepperdine vs. TBA
7:00 p.m. – Hawai’i vs. TBA

Sunday, December 25
8:30 a.m. – 7th Place or 5th Place Game
10:30 a.m. – 7th Place or 5th Place Game
1:30 p.m. – 3rd Place Game
3:30 p.m. – Championship Game

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