‘Bows Win Season-Opener Behind Strong Second Half, Coleman’s 22 Points

By: Paul Brecht

MANOA – The University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team used a strong second half and the sweet shooting of junior guard Noel Coleman to take down Mississippi Valley State Friday night, 72-54, to win their opening matchup of the Outrigger Rainbow Classic.

Kahuku graduate and senior forward Samuta Avea returned from an injury that kept him out last season and kicked off the scoring, putting back a missed three-pointer to give an early lead to the ‘Bows.

Coleman would help buoy an otherwise cold-shooting UH offense early in the first half, knocking down a pair of triples and dropping a beautiful pass off to senior forward Kamaka Hepa for a two-handed slam to increase the margin to five, 14-9.

The Rainbow Warriors appeared to have an opportunity to blow the game open as time wound down in the first half. Following Mississippi Valley State starting forward Alvin Stredic Jr. being whistled for his third foul with 6:12 left to play in the opening half, UH opened up a 10-point lead with Coleman subbing back in.

The Delta Devils continued to claw back, cutting the lead down to 30-28 before heading to the locker rooms thanks to six points from center Michael Barber in the final four minutes.

Coming out of halftime, Barber and the visiting Devils continued to surge. MVS took a 39-37 lead with 15:11 left to play following a Barber made jumpshot.

Once again, it was the guard play of Coleman that helped settle down the ‘Bows.

The junior calmly swished a pair of free throws to tie the game again, then knocked down his fourth 3-pointer of the night to give UH back the lead, 42-39.

Hawai’i wouldn’t look back the rest of the night.

The ‘Bows opened up a 15-point lead on the back of a 17-4 run that had the exclamation point put on it with a powerful dunk from Avea with 6:31 left to play.

The lead allowed for some experimentation from UH head coach Eran Ganot, as 7’1 freshman center Mor Seck from Senegal got some late burn in the waning minutes of the blowout. Seck chipped in six points, including a 4-for-5 performance from the foul line in his ‘Bows debut.

All 14 active Rainbow Warriors saw court action, with nine players scoring in the ‘Bows 72-54 win.

Hawai’i was led by Coleman’s 22 points, as the junior knocked down five 3’s en route to victory. Avea had 20 points for the Rainbow Warriors and junior forward Bernardo da Silva had a double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds) in the season-opening win.

UH will take on Eastern Washington on Sunday in the next round of the Outrigger Rainbow Classic with tip-off coming at 5:00 PM HST. Eastern Washington dropped their opening matchup Friday against Yale, 74-60.