Hawai’i Pacific cruises past Concordia-Irvine behind Sanchez’s double-double

Hawai’i Pacific cruises past Concordia-Irvine behind Sanchez’s double-double

Hawai’i Pacific cruises past Concordia-Irvine behind Sanchez’s double-double

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED FEB 8, 2024

HONOLULU — The Hawai’i Pacific University men’s basketball team dispatched Concordia-Irvine University (10-11, 7-8 PacWest) on Thursday night inside the Shark Tank, using the combo of captains Maj Dusanic and defending PacWest Player of the Week Melo Sanchez to ground the Golden Eagles, 66-48. 

HPU (14-7, 9-4 PacWest) worked itself out to an early 8-4 lead as Dusanic got a trio of easy baskets to go down, including a two-handed stuff, while CUI’s offense sputtered along. Golden Eagles’ guard Jackson Tucker took things into his own hands, scoring three points in a row for the visitors before Jesse Nakanishi’s team turned the defensive intensity up another level. 

The Sharks ripped off a 14-0 run, spanning past the midway point of the opening half of play to take a 22-7 lead after Melo Sanchez found Ethan Taafe for a triple with 9:43 left in the frame and forced a timeout from Concordia-Irvine’s 23rd-year head coach Ken Ammann. His team finally snapped the scoring drought on the other side of the timeout with a pair of Jackson Harding makes from the charity stripe, but HPU answered right back with five straight points of their own as Matthew Van Komen muscled home his second layup of the night before Josh Niusulu drilled a reset-and-shoot triple to push it out to an 18-point advantage before the visitors could score again. 

After another quick three-point run from CUI, the Sharks turned up the long-distance shooting by drilling three straight three-pointers, tripling up Concordia 36-12 with 1:59 remaining in the first half as Sanchez laced the nylon once again from deep. The Golden Eagles’ offense finally recovered just before the break, pushing five points on the board thanks to Charlie Dalton while the Sharks added a couple more baskets to go into halftime with Hawai’i Pacific leading, 40-17. 

The Golden Eagles started the second half far better, ripping off a 15-4 run over the first eight minutes and forty-five seconds out of the halftime break to bring the game within striking distance, 44-32. 

That’s when Sanchez, the reigning PacWest player of the week, took things over for the Sharks’ offense as he drilled a deep three from the top of the key before finding Van Komen on the next trip down the floor for an easy lay-in to push the lead back up to 17 and steady the team once again. 

Niusulu added consecutive layups to make it a 20-plus point advantage again for HPU with just under nine minutes left to play, becoming the third different Shark to reach double figures on the night with 13 points. CUI put on one last run, bringing the margin within 11 with five and a half minutes remaining but never came closer as Hawai’i Pacific closed out the final four minutes with Dusanic and Sanchez taking turns sticking in the daggers of a 66-48 win. 

CUI was led by graduate forward Tim Adetukasi, who racked up 12 points on just 4-of-13 shooting from the floor across 35 minutes of action. Sophomore forward Jackson Tucker followed closely behind with 11 points while freshman forward Charlie Dalton added nine points and seven rebounds in the loss for the Golden Eagles. 

Melo Sanchez continued his all-around play for the Sharks, turning in his first double-double of the season with a game-best 16 points to go along with 10 boards. Sharks forward Maj Dusanic tailed his co-captain closely, ending the night with 15 points and nine rebounds — narrowly missing out on his second consecutive double-double and third total of the year. 

Hawai’i Pacific returns to the hardwood this Saturday, hosting Biola for the second-to-last home game of the season with eyes on second place in the conference standings. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. HT or following the conclusion of the women’s contest. HPU is currently within a game of Academy of Art, Point Loma and Biola in the race to the PacWest tournament’s top-four berths.