Sweet-shooting Coleman helps Hawai’i shake off slow first half for win over Cal Poly

Sweet-shooting Coleman helps Hawai’i shake off slow first half for win over Cal Poly

Sweet-shooting Coleman helps Hawai’i shake off slow first half for win over Cal Poly

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED JAN 27, 2024

HONOLULU — Man, it feels good to get one. 

The lineup tinkering continued for the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors Saturday night as freshman guard Tom Beattie received his first start of the 2023-24 season, replacing captain JoVon McClanahan in the opening five to round out the new-look three-guard lineup that has shown some success in recent stints for Hawai’i as UH took down visiting Cal Poly, 83-73. Senior guard Noel Coleman led the way for the ‘Bows with 23 points, providing important basket after basket throughout the second half. 

The Rainbow Warriors (11-10, 3-6 Big West) started off slowly on offense against Cal Poly (4-17, 0-9 Big West) as the new lineup attempted to mesh, scoring just two points on a Justin McKoy spinning layup in the game’s first four minutes. The defense of UH, though, gave up just three points of their own as the game hit the first media timeout. 

Following the break in the action, Hawai’i snapped off a speedy 6-0 run with defense leading to offense to jump up ahead, 8-3. The Mustangs ran back ahead with six straight points of their own as Kobe Sanders hammed home a tomahawk jam, but a left-corner Juan Munoz three-pointer swished on through to give the Rainbow Warriors back the lead with 11:57 left in the opening half of play, 12-9. 

The ‘Bows lead grew to eight after an Akira Jacobs’ right-corner three dropped through to make it 19-11 with 8:35 left in the half, forcing a Cal Poly timeout. The Mustangs responded with their most consistent offense of the first half, closing out the period trading baskets with host Hawai’i before a defensive breakdown left open Cal Poly’s Aiden Prukop for a left-wing three cut it to a three-point UH lead to end the opening 20 minutes, 26-23. 

Hawai’i looked far more focused to open the second half, ripping off a 9-0 run behind the sweet-shooting touch of Noel Coleman before Cal Poly finally got on the board, making it 35-25 in favor of the ‘Bows just under five minutes after the halftime break. 

After trading baskets for the next few possessions, the Mustangs would cut it to a seven-point ‘Bows lead before Beattie found a cutting Jacobs on the baseline and McKoy got a transition layup to drop plus the foul to help UH push the lead up to 14 with less than six minutes to play. McClanahan gave Hawai’i its biggest lead of the game a minute and a half later as he drove all the way to the cup to make it 62-46 and drilled a pair of free throws to make it an 18-point advantage just a few seconds later. It looked like the ‘Bows would prance their way to a blowout win — but Cal Poly wouldn’t let go that easily. 

The Mustangs extended the game’s final four minutes out as long as possible, playing the foul game while hitting tough shots from inside and outside the arc to bring the game as close as seven with 33 seconds left before the ‘Bows closed out the visitors, 83-73. 

Cal Poly was led by senior Kobe Sanders’ double-double, posting a game-best 32 points and 10 rebounds in the loss for the Mustangs. Fellow guard Aiden Prukop poured in 23 points on 4-of-7 shooting from three-point range as Cal Poly remains winless in Big West play. 

UH was led by Noel Coleman’s 23 points, the fourth time this season that the senior has eclipsed 20 or more points for the Rainbow Warriors. McClanahan chipped in 12 points in his new-ish reserve role, going a perfect 6-of-6 from the charity stripe in a game that saw 69 total free throws taken. 

As the team acclimates to life without Mor Seck, the ‘Bows did well to win the points in the paint battle, 32-24, despite losing the rebounding competition and dominated when Cal Poly turned the ball over by scoring 25 points off of 14 Mustang giveaways. On what head coach Eran Ganot has called the worst offensive-rebounding team in recent UH program memory, it’ll continue to be important for the Rainbow Warriors to win on the margins as they look to get back into the thick of the Big West standings. 

Hawai’i hits the road for a massive trip to the continent with games against Cal State Fullerton, who beat the ‘Bows in Honolulu to open the conference schedule, and UC Irvine next Thursday and Saturday.