HPU looks for second-ever win when visiting UH-Mānoa on Sunday

HPU looks for second-ever win when visiting UH-Mānoa on Sunday

HPU looking for second-ever win against ‘Bows in Sunday matchup

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED DEC 7, 2023

HONOLULU — Old friends, new energy, and a pair of O’ahu-based college basketball teams off to strong starts to their 2023-24 seasons. 

The Hawai’i Pacific University men’s basketball team, now under the leadership of longtime high school coach and former UH assistant Jesse Nakanishi, will roll down the hill from the “Shark Tank” to the other show in Mānoa for a date with the 6-1 Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors this Sunday. The Sharks are currently riding the high of a 5-game winning streak after dropping the first two contests of the season, most recently taking down Fresno Pacific in a tightly-contested home win on Monday. 

While the game counts as just an exhibition for the Division II program, coaches and players alike are treating the matchup as anything but such. 

“Definitely not treating it as an exhibition,” Nakanishi said on Thursday. “We play all games the same way and we’re going to try and put our best foot forward to win this thing and compete at a high level.” 

The Sharks have changed up routine for practice a bit ahead of the matchup, switching to slightly shorter, more intense practices to increase efficiency in preparation for Sunday’s test. To do so, the coaching staff has also keyed in on player recovery and rest in time away from the court this week. 

Ahead of the “Battle for O’ahu,” here are three keys for HPU should the 5-2 Sharks want to come up with the program’s 2nd ever victory over its D1 counterpart and the first since the flip of the century. 


 

1. Control the painted area. 

HPU presents a different challenge than most Division II programs, employing a more-than-healthy sized front court with 7-foot-4 graduate transfer Matthew Van Komen patrolling the paint and the springy 6-foot-7 Slovenian Maj Dusanic right next to him. 

The Sharks don’t get much smaller when going to the bench, either. Backing up Van Komen is 6-foot-11 Tucker Pellicci, who has continued to provide quality minutes off the pine for Nakanishi and staff to allow the team to steal minutes of rest at a time for “Mount Van Komen” each half without significant drop-off. ETSU transfer Charlie Weber, who stands at 6-foot-9 and played a significant amount of center during his time on the mainland, made his debut on December 2 after missing HPU’s first five contests due to injury and enjoyed a hot-shooting 2nd half against Fresno Pacific by drilling deep two after deep two. 

With options inside, HPU has felt that the team’s strength lies with the post play. That hasn’t necessarily been the case for the Sharks on offense, seeing the top two scorers for the year play guard in Diggy Winbush and Melo Sanchez (more on him later). 

Defensively? That’s been an entirely different story. 

The Sharks are tied for 19th nationally in Division 2, averaging five blocks per contest across seven games. That number doesn’t include the impact that the shot blockers employed by HPU have on the multitude of attempts coming near and at the rim. It will be vital that the strong paint defense continues against a Hawai’i team that relentlessly attacks the lane with guards and has a quality big man in Bernardo de Silva. 

2. Get Melo Sanchez going once again. 

Told you we’d get back to him. 

The sophomore guard leads HPU in points per contest, putting in around 17 points per game for the Sharks. That number has rapidly dipped over the previous two outings as the 6-foot-4 guard was held to just seven points against each of Westmont and Fresno Pacific. Before then, the San Diego-native had scored 15 or more points in four of five appearances to begin the year, including a season-best 32 points at home against Slippery Rock that pushed his per-game average to 20.8 points in each outing. 

Opponents have keyed in on the guard at times this season, allowing others to get buckets of their own to help lead HPU to victory (most recently seeing Winbush explode for 27 points versus Westmont and earn PacWest player of the week honors). When it comes to matching up against the ‘Bows, however, Hawai’i Pacific will need the team’s best scorer to show up in the brightest lights yet this year. Sanchez had just nine points last season as a true freshman against UH up in Laie as he fouled out in 21 minutes and took just five total shots. 

The formula this time around needs to look much different for HPU and that means feeding Melo and letting the sophomore guard feast. It’s a tough ask against a UH program with many strong perimeter defenders but can serve as an excellent measuring stick for the guard and team to see where they are and where they need to get to as the schedule rolls along.

3. Don’t let the game slip away in bench minutes. 

One of the biggest concerns and toughest parts of games this season for HPU has been during the mainly-bench minutes. 

Now, it’s not because of a lack of quality players or poor play. There just hasn’t been a true scorer that has emerged with the second unit quite yet for HPU through seven games. Just once through those seven outings has there been a double-digit performance off the bench for HPU, coming in the season-opening loss at Alaska Fairbanks when Ethan Taafe finished with 10 points. 

Taafe has enjoyed a nice start to his second season at HPU, but the true piece to keep an eye out for is the aforementioned Weber. The 6-foot-9 forward expects to continue ramping up his minutes and play a key role for the Sharks as he moves out of the post and has shown off some wing ability as well. If the Division I transfer continues to work his sea-legs under him, Nakanishi and staff have an intriguing scoring piece to boost the second unit. 

It’s going to be important for HPU to compete in the bench minutes for both sides. Each team goes about nine players deep in the rotation but UH’s bench unit has been an exciting one that has led to big leads at times with young talents like Tom Beattie and Mor Seck. 

Should HPU pull off an upset, look back at how the bench units performed versus one another and if Weber is able to shake off a ton of the rust from the past two years off. 

Purdue holds off Marquette to win 2023 Allstate Maui Invitational title

Purdue holds off Marquette to win 2023 Allstate Maui Invitational title

HONOLULU, HI – NOVEMBER 22: Purdue Boilermakers center Zach Edey (15) dunks against the Marquette Golden Eagles during the championship game of the Allstate Maui Invitational on November 22, 2023, at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire)

Purdue holds off Marquette to win 2023 Allstate Maui Invitational title

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED NOV 22, 2023

HONOLULU — Pegged as “the greatest [Maui Invitational] field” ever with five teams in the preseason AP top 25 rankings, a UCLA team that went to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament last year and an athletic Syracuse team that ended the Thanksgiving-week tournament with an event-high 105 points against Chaminade, expectations for the eventual championship matchup were high. 

The #2 Purdue Boilermakers and #4 Marquette Golden Eagles did not disappoint, as the top-5 matchup to close out an exciting three days of the 2023 Allstate Maui Invitational came down to the wire, seeing the Boilermakers hold off a spirited Golden Eagles’ comeback try to secure the program’s first title in the Hawai’i-based event, 78-75. 

The two squads traded buckets and the lead to begin the championship action, knotted at 12 just under six minutes into the game. Marquette star forward Oso Ighodaro would pick up his second personal foul with 14:37 left in the 1st half, opening the paint and driving lanes for Purdue and defending national player of the year Zach Edey to take a double-digit lead deep into the half. 

Ighodaro’s return at the 4:30 mark of the 1st half with the Golden Eagles trailing by eight helped Marquette keep the deficit around 10, cutting it as low as six, before Purdue’s Lance Jones’ three-quarter court heave went down to give the Boilermakers a 12-point advantage heading into the halftime break, 45-33. 

“I think the foul trouble in the first half really took away from our violence of action,” Marquette head coach Shaka Smart said after the game. “That’s how we play. It’s a great lesson for us to learn early in the year, November 22, that regardless of circumstances, we have to play our way.” 

The fourth-ranked Golden Eagles came out of the locker rooms with their metaphorical hair on fire, cutting a 15-point Purdue lead down to seven just over four minutes into the 2nd half with three triples and forcing a Boilermakers’ timeout. 

Following the timeout for Purdue, Edey put down a pair of buckets to settle things for the 2nd-ranked Boilermakers and put the lead back over 10. Still, Marquette would not go away with a boost from Ighodaro not being glued to the bench with foul trouble. The Golden Eagles cut it down to three with 10:37 left in regulation after Ben Gold hammered home a fast-break dunk, but Purdue continued to answer in big moments, this time Fletcher Loyer with a short jumper to push the lead back to five. 

While Marquette continued to fight, never letting the game get away, Edey silenced each MU-run with timely baskets and offensive rebounds. In the game’s biggest moment with the outcome in question, the 7-foot-4 Canadian snagged a missed Purdue 3-pointer and put it back up and in with 16 seconds left to give a three-point lead to the Boilermakers. 

Marquette had a couple of opportunities to tie it after the Edey bucket with Tyler Kolek’s 3-point attempt with 10 seconds left and two missed free throws on the front end of 1-and-1’s for Purdue keeping the margin separating the two at one long-distance make. MU’s Kam Jones had a look, albeit difficult, at the horn to tie it that didn’t go down as the #4 Golden Eagles fell to #2 Purdue, 78-75. 

Edey and Lance Jones joked in the postgame press conference about who had hit the bigger shot for Purdue, who secured its first Maui Invitational title in four tries, as Edey had the later bucket, but Jones’ three-quarter court heave was the final margin (three points) between the teams. 

“His was,” Zach Edey said of Jones’ buzzer-beater right before halftime with a smile. “I mean, he shot it from, what, a hundred feet away? So, I don’t know, it’s hard to compete with that.” 

Jones, who transferred to Purdue this past offseason from Southern Illinois for a graduate-transfer year, quickly deferred the praise back to the tournament MVP in Edey. 

“I would say his was the winning-shot, his is the winning put-back, so I would say his,” said the fifth-year transfer. 

Edey led the way for the Boilermakers with 28 points and 15 rebounds in the win, playing 36 of 40 minutes in the title game. Guard Braden Smith added 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting for Purdue, who now returns home to host Texas Southern after defeating three ranked opponents in three days. 

Marquette was led by guard Tyler Kolek, whose 22 points, seven rebounds and six assists paced all Golden Eagles for the day in those categories. Oso Ighodaro, who dealt with foul woes throughout the game, had 16 points and posted a +10 for Marquette in his 26 minutes on the floor. The fourth-ranked Golden Eagles head back to the mainland and Wisconsin to host Southern University, looking to get back on track after a loss to finish an otherwise phenomenal tournament for Shaka Smart’s squad. 

The top-ranked Kansas Jayhawks took 3rd place in the tournament after defeating #7 Tennessee earlier in the day, 69-60, and #11 Gonzaga defeated UCLA in the 5th place game, 69-65. Syracuse finished the tournament with a win over host Chaminade, 105-56, to finish in 7th place. 

Hawai’i opens quest for three-peat with dominant showing in UH-Hilo exhibition

Hawai’i opens quest for three-peat with dominant showing in UH-Hilo exhibition

Hawai’i opens quest for three-peat with dominant showing in UH-Hilo exhibition

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED NOV 1, 2023

HONOLULU — The University of Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine basketball team opened the 2023-24 season with a bang on Wednesday night, not losing a single quarter in the 67-39 exhibition win over rival-island program UH-Hilo at the Stan Sheriff Center. 

UH started off slowly, struggling to finish inside and seeing the Vulcans score the game’s first points before ripping off a 22-3 run to close the opening 10 minutes with the lead, 22-5. In the frame, the ‘Bows knocked down four 3-pointers (two each from guards Olivia Davies and Meilani McBee) and shot 50% from the floor. 

The Rainbow Wahine continued to work into form in the 2nd quarter, trading buckets with UH-Hilo and working through a tighter whistle by the officials on defense. While the score kept UH-Hilo at arms’ length, the Rainbow Wahine still felt as though there was meat left on the bone. 

“The 1st quarter was great on both sides of the ball,” Hawai’i HC Laura Beeman said postgame. “Then, I thought quarters two, three and four really slipped. I thought we played really fun basketball in the 1st quarter… we can’t have slippage in our execution.” 

The ‘Bows entered the locker rooms leading by 20, seeing nine different players record buckets and three new faces making their UH debuts between freshmen Jade Peacock and Vivienne Berrett and Michigan State transfer Brooklyn Rewers.  

The 3rd quarter presented more of the same as UH showed off the impressive depth it boasts at every position, pushing the lead to as much as 29 in the period. Again, it was McBee buoying the offense with six points in the frame, hitting two more triples. 

Hawai’i struggled to score in the final quarter of play, mustering a game-low 11 points in the quarter as Beeman and staff toyed with lineups and gave additional burn to depth pieces getting accustomed to the ‘Bows culture. Even in a quarter that saw UH shoot under 22% from the floor, the Rainbow Wahine’s defense stood strong to hold UH-Hilo to 11 points in the final 10 minutes. 

Hawai’i-Hilo was led by Noelle Sua-Godinet’s nine points and four boards, followed closely behind by Kaile Cruz’s seven points in the loss. The exhibition marked Sua-Godinet’s first game-action since March 2022. The Vulcans kick off the regular season on November 10 at HPU’s “Shark Tank” against #15 Montana State Billings. 

The Rainbow Wahine were led by McBee’s 13 points, hitting four 3-pointers and hauling in six rebounds in the win. Berrett chipped in 11 points, reaching double-digits in her first collegiate action as 10 different ‘Bows scored in the win. 

Hawai’i opens the season on the road next Wednesday, November 8 against #15 Stanford as part of a gauntlet non-conference schedule to prepare the two-time defending Big West tournament champions to defend the titles for another year. 

“[Stanford]’s good, they’re really good. They’re 15th for a reason,” Beeman chuckled when asked what needed to improve in a week’s time. “We have to rebound much, much better and pursue the ball better… Stanford is where they are because they’re skilled, but they also do all of the little things with the communication, the intensity, the follow-through and they play at a level the entire time and I know that’s something we can get to.” 

It’s a tough test. It’s a purposeful one, too. 

“We’re going to go in there and we’re going to be ready to play,” Beeman stated. “We’re not backing down to anybody, we have to be able to go for four quarters.” 

Hawai’i men’s basketball falls to #23 St. Mary’s in Maui fundraiser exhibition

Hawai’i men’s basketball falls to #23 St. Mary’s in Maui fundraiser exhibition

Hawai’i men’s basketball falls to #23 St. Mary’s in Maui fundraiser exhibition

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED OCT 21, 2023

HONOLULUThe Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors men’s basketball team kicked off their season with an exhibition against a formidable opponent, hosting the 23rd-ranked St. Mary’s Gaels for a preseason tune-up that saw proceeds go on to benefit the relief and recovery efforts on Maui. 

The ‘Bows starting lineup, needing to replace two members from last season after the graduation of forwards Samuta Avea and Kamaka Hepa, included the three team captains in JoVon McClanahan, Noel Coleman and Bernardo de Silva just like last season. In place of Avea and Hepa were a pair of Australian hoopers in junior Ryan Rapp and sophomore Harry Rouhliadeff. 

Hawai’i won the tip and McClanahan quickly got the party started with a pull-up jumper from the midrange for the first points of the night. The preseason all-Big West selection made a move so nice that he did it twice, giving the ‘Bows an early 4-0 lead. 

That would be the biggest (and only) lead of the night for the exhibition hosts. 

A 13-2 Gaels’ run ensued as St. Mary’s moved out in front before Hawai’i could stop the bleeding with Justin McKoy’s first Rainbow Warriors’ bucket, a 3-pointer from the left corner to cut the deficit to four with 12:45 left in the first half. 

St. Mary’s answered with a 9-2 run of their own before the ‘Bows traded baskets with a pair of nice finishes inside from de Silva and McKoy. The first of the Rainbow Warriors’ 2023 recruiting class in Tom Beattie entered the game with 8:42 left in the first half and picked up his first points as a ‘Bow four minutes later with a driving right-handed finish between defenders to cut the Gaels’ lead to 12. Fellow freshman Akira Jacobs got his first Rainbow Warrior run for the last two and a half minutes of the opening twenty minutes of play, though he missed both 3-point attempts in that time as Hawai’i entered the locker room down by 17, 46-29. 

Hawai’i head coach Eran Ganot toyed with different lineups throughout the second half, showing off different three-guard lineups with a stretch forward to go next to either de Silva or 7-foot-1 sophomore Mor Seck. The Rainbow Warriors also experimented with a “small-ball” lineup with Rouhliadeff at the 5 and Justin McKoy at the 4 while playing Beattie at the 3 and Coleman and McClanahan manning the backcourt. 

As the second half rolled along, St. Mary’s showed that it is a few steps above Hawai’i at this point in the year while displaying a strong post game supplemented by some elite outside shooting. The Gaels shot a blistering 59% from the floor and 50% from 3-point territory in the process of routing the ‘Bows, 92-58. 

“[St. Mary’s] gave us a hard lesson that we deserved,” said Hawai’i head coach Eran Ganot. “I do believe in our guys that they’ll use [the loss] the right way.” 

That lesson included being dominated in various categories unusual for Ganot-led teams, including being out-rebounded by 11 and turning the ball over 15 times to just nine giveaways by the Gaels. The ‘Bows were outscored in the points-off-turnovers category, 22-6, and offered little resistance against SMU’s attack to the rim with 42 points allowed in the paint.  

“They’ve been great, they are great, they will be great,” a solemn Ganot said of St. Mary’s after the game. “When you don’t bring it, good teams make you pay but great teams try to kill you and they’re a great team.” 

Ganot tried to keep as positive as possible but the frustration from the events of the night were visible on the faces and in the voices of seniors JoVon McClanahan and Justin McKoy. The ‘Bows were an elite defensive team in 2022-23, not allowing a single opponent to reach 90 points in a game and giving up over 80 points just once. That identity seemed like a far memory on Friday, though the seniors said that it would be fixed before the regular season begins, part of the benefit of playing such a high-level exhibition game over three weeks ahead of the Rainbow Warriors’ season opener against UH Hilo. 

“At the end of the day, it’s early but we’re going to find some guys that are going to play hard every possession, offensively and defensively,” McClanahan passionately said after the game. “[Another 34-point blowout loss] will never happen in the Stan because we will have guys that play hard… That’s what [St. Mary’s] did.” 

The Gaels were led by sophomore guard Aidan Mahaney, who finished the night with a game-high 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting and drilled four 3-pointers in the win. Augustas Marciulionis enjoyed a sweet-scoring night as well, racking up 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting and went a perfect 7-for-7 from the charity stripe. 

“I know [Mahaney] is going to be a pro so he just makes plays, he’s a tough guard and so is [Marciulionis],” McClanahan said of SMU’s backcourt. “Hats off to [them] because playing guys like that makes me better.” 

The ‘Bows point guard paced UH with 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the floor, knocking down his only 3-point attempt to beat the first half horn. Rouhliadeff followed behind with nine points of his own, going just 1-of-4 from the field but cashing in all six of his free throw attempts. Freshman Tom Beattie finished with six points in 23 minutes off the bench in his first action for UH. 

It’s back to work now for the team with fresh game tape to focus on working out the kinks of the newest edition of the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors. 

Additional Hawai’i MBB notes: 

  • Juan Munoz made his official return to the court, suiting up and playing nine minutes in his first game in front of fans since a season-ending injury took him down a year ago. He scored his first bucket from the midrange on the right baseline in the second half, getting a nice cheer from fans. 
  • Akira Jacobs finished the night scoreless and looked to be adjusting to the college level at times. Have no fear, ‘Bows fans — that’s normal for freshman. The 6-foot-8 southpaw can shoot the ball well and looked more nervous than anything when he first entered the game. Even Ganot mentioned postgame the lefty’s shooting ability not being a concern in the slightest going forward. 
  • Matthue Cotton was held scoreless in his Hawai’i debut, recording one rebound in 12 minutes of action. The 6-foot-5 left-handed guard has flashed exciting athleticism and a nice 3-point stroke in practices but didn’t take a shot in his first game for UH. 
  • Mor Seck was strapped down by some foul trouble in this one but recorded a respectable five points and five boards in 14 minutes of action. He’s someone who can provide a real boost to the ceiling of this Hawai’i team but he needs to focus on avoiding fouls. He was whistled for four fouls in his few stints off the bench Saturday. 
  • Noel Coleman was held scoreless, only taking four shots throughout the evening. That happened at times last season too and the UH offense struggled immensely during those dry spells. He will need to be more aggressive looking to pull the trigger on opportunities behind the 3-point line to help open inside the arc for himself and others. 
  • Bernardo de Silva was his normal self: steady. He just goes out and produces in an efficient way and Saturday was no difference, putting up six points on 3-of-5 shooting to go along with a pair of rebounds. Like Seck, it’s vital that de Silva avoids the foul bug this season to help aid what can be a small Hawai’i backcourt at times. 
  • Ryan Rapp got the start for UH, scoring five points in his first chance in the opening unit. He is an intriguing piece that struggled with injury last season but has shown some nice scoring touch from all three levels early in the preseason. He’ll need to increase his physicality on the boards and defensively if he wants to remain with the starters, though.