After time away, Hawai’i MBB commit Aaron-Hunkin Claytor itching to come home

After time away, Hawai’i MBB commit Aaron-Hunkin Claytor itching to come home

After time away, Hawai’i MBB commit Aaron-Hunkin Claytor itching to come home

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED FEB 10, 2024

HONOLULU — The thought had been sitting in the background of his mind for a while, but former ‘Iolani guard Aaron Hunkin-Claytor could not hold it off any longer. 

“I’m so ready to get back home and play,” he shared via message on an early morning back on January 26. 

After two years away from the islands, a commitment to the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa and a phenomenal senior regular season at Salesian Preparatory College in California that saw his team honored as the top-ranked high school program in Northern California after a 25-1 regular season, Hunkin-Claytor allowed himself to think about the future for a moment. 

“I just miss playing in front of the people in Hawai’i and the atmosphere [inside SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center]. I love high school, but I am just really excited to play for the home team and for the ‘Bows,” he said to his circle. 

The 6-foot-3 point guard grew up in Hawai’i, spending nearly his entire life on the island of O’ahu with stops in Laie and Wahiawā after being born in Virginia. Hunkin-Claytor, the son of former University of Hawai’i-Hilo standout Mario Claytor, enjoyed a successful two seasons with ‘Iolani on the way to being named as a part of Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Fab 15 list before taking his talents to Richmond, California and the mainland to play for veteran head coach Bill Mellis at Salesian where his game could be developed even further. 

“Basketball-wise, [I have been] able to learn a lot more about being a true point guard from [Coach Mellis],” Hunkin-Claytor said explaining his move to the mainland. “Plus, colleges were able to come watch us practice during open periods easier at Salesian than in Hawai’i.” 

The move served its exact purpose, helping the guard improve in all facets of the game while receiving enough exposure to collect up 13 Division 1 scholarship offers while being rated as a three-star prospect and the top point guard in Northern California’s 2024 class (via Prep Hoops.com). As one of the more underrated guards in the country, Hunkin-Claytor has continued to rack up recognition and praise from anyone watching him play. 

For example, the head man of the program that Hunkin-Claytor plays for has been effusive with his praise of his senior guard. Salesian coach Bill Mellis has seen many elite, Division 1-caliber guards come through the school and play for him — including University of Hawai’i senior guard and captain JoVon McClanahan — and yet he couldn’t pick out any that were definitively better players than the all-around efficient Hunkin-Claytor. 

“[I think] he’s just as good as any [Salesian point guard I’ve coached] to be honest,” the 26th-year head coach said in a phone interview. “Different, but just as good.” 

Both Hunkin-Claytor and Mellis describe the guard’s game as “pass-first” with an emphasis on ball security as the three-star guard has posted better than a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio against an excellent slate of teams during his senior season.  

Hunkin-Claytor has always had a natural feel for the game — he fits all the clichés that are said about old-school point guards with a maturity beyond his years both on and off the floor. An extra coach on the hardwood, a pass-first, unselfish player with a mindset that has been shared and reflected from the moment he stepped into a uniform for The Pride.  

“He came in last year and his unselfishness was infectious,” Mellis recalled. “[This year’s Salesian team] is a group who doesn’t care who scores and that all started with Aaron setting the tone from the moment he got here.” 

Despite an affinity for passing, do not doubt the fact he can add in the scoring department himself at all three levels. Hunkin-Claytor is a right-handed shooter with quality shot mechanics and a comfort finishing with his left hand as much as his right that helps him do damage in transition with his creativity. 

For those who know the young man, it was easy to see this rise coming. He is as hard a worker as they come. 

The son of a military dad who was inspired by his father to pursue basketball, Hunkin-Claytor is the first one to practice every day – regardless of time – while maintaining excellence in the classroom. In Hunkin-Claytor’s time at Salesian, Mellis said that he had never once had to worry about his point guard taking care of business in school. According to Hunkin-Claytor, ‘Iolani’s regimen is to thank for preparing him well ahead of time for what he would see. 

“I found that in the classroom, ‘Iolani prepared me very well,” the senior said of his time at the ILH institution. “Salesian is a very good school academically, but I don’t think a lot of schools can top ‘Iolani’s academics.”  

Alongside the school workload, the scheduling of the basketball program at Salesian resembles that of a collegiate student-athlete. After his commitment to UH back on September 16, Hunkin-Claytor felt a weight off of his shoulders knowing his next step was set and could focus all his energy on his development and winning. 

Win, he absolutely has. 

Since the move to Salesian, Hunkin-Claytor has two seasons of 20+ wins and 9 total losses in that time. Overall, he is a winner who has not been too focused on stats while his team blows out a good portion of the schedule – he’s averaging a very balanced 8.2 points, 4.2 assists and 3.8 rebounds per contest on a squad without a “go-to scorer” identified and only half a game’s worth of minutes at a time.  

His goals do not stop with the regular season. With conference playoffs underway, Hunkin-Claytor’s Salesian team has eyes on sectionals and state titles. The Pride is the favorite to represent Northern California in the state tournament.  

That should excite Hawai’i men’s basketball fans, too. Hunkin-Claytor gives off every inclination that he fits perfectly with a program that has not finished under .500 in a full season of conference play since Eran Ganot took over but has struggled to win the Big West Tournament. In Hunkin-Claytor, the program adds a winner who is not satisfied with just regular season success. 

The high school senior has expressed plenty of excitement about joining the program that fits his mindset, too. Despite 13 total offers that included a pair of UH’s Big West foes in UC Davis and Cal Poly, Hawai’i always felt like home no matter where else he gave a chance to. The only question left was the connection to the coaches and team. 

“The team itself, the [high pick-and-roll] offense, the coaches and the community,” Hunkin-Claytor listed off when asked what pushed the ‘Bows over the top for him. “Really everything felt like a perfect fit to me.” 

The excitement for Hunkin-Claytor only grew more after Southern California high school product AJ Economou announced his commitment to the islands, leading to dreams of a high-flying, hot-shooting fast backcourt pairing between the two California prep school additions. Economou enrolled early at UH and has been seen on the bench with the Rainbow Warriors, although he will not play this season. 

“I’m ready to play with everyone on the team [but] I’m really ready to play with [Economou],” Hunkin-Claytor admitted. “We haven’t been able to play with or against each other, but I’ve watched his film and love his game. He’s an athletic, tall wing that can flat-out shoot and I think in transition it’s going to be fun to play with him.” 

Asked what makes Economou a “high-flyer” via text, Hunkin-Claytor responded with a video of his future UH teammate and simply said: “He has one of the best in-game dunk highlights in AAU history.” 

While he has tons of enthusiasm for returning home, he understands that the work has only just begun. He has confidence in his jumper, handle and court-vision while being a bulldog defensively – he leads the Pride in charges drawn/taken this season – but also needs to add strength to his skinny frame as he steps up a level. His head coach cautions that there is still plenty of room to grow for AHC but also expects his floor general to compete for time from Day 1 on Hawai’i’s campus. 

“He makes his teammates better,” Mellis continued. “He’ll need to get stronger, add more arc and consistency, but that’s every player. His court-vision is about as good as anyone.” 

He draws inspiration for his game from all-time greats like Magic Johnson and Jason Kidd, a pair of do-it-all point guards who had an affinity for passing the ball more than scoring it. A pair of guards that slowly developed a more consistent three-point jumper as their careers progressed. 

“Magic was a big guard that always made the game look fun but protected the ball from smaller guards while [Kidd] was a very strong guard who was an absolute floor general as well. They’re two guys I try to take the most from,” Hunkin-Claytor mentioned. 

Overall, the Hawai’i commit comes back home to the islands as a better player and leader than when he left. The exciting part of his return is the ceiling hasn’t been set for him – like a fine wine, Hunkin-Claytor is only getting better with time. 

“I’m really excited to play for and in front of the people,” Hunkin-Claytor exclaimed. “I can’t wait to be home!” 

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. 

“Together” Hawai’i snaps 4-game home losing streak with tough win over UC Riverside

“Together” Hawai’i snaps 4-game home losing streak with tough win over UC Riverside

“Together” Hawai’i snaps 4-game home losing streak with tough win over UC Riverside

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED JAN 13, 2024

HONOLULU – Finally. 

After dropping their last four home contests and entering Saturday night on a bit of a slide, the University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team (10-7, 2-3 Big West) used a gutsy second half defensive effort and JoVon McClanahan’s 14 points to down UC Riverside (7-11, 2-3 Big West) inside SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center for just the ‘Bows second win in the last seven meetings between the programs. 

Hawai’i would get off to a fast start behind six early points from McClanahan, taking an 8-2 lead not even three minutes into action. UH’s advantage trickled on for the game’s first eight minutes until UCR’s Ben Griscti drilled a three-pointer to give the Highlanders their first lead of the night, 13-12, with 12:05 left in the first half. 

UH took the lead right back on the next possession as Justin McKoy got a hook shot to go plus a foul to send the game to the second media timeout of the first 20 minutes. Following the stop in the action, Juan Munoz would get in on the fun for Hawai’i with his first three-point field goal of the evening making it 18-15 in favor of the ‘Bows. 

UC Riverside would fight back in front with four consecutive points, but UH responded with a 7-0 run of their own behind a Munoz layup, Mor Seck thundering dunk and true freshman Akira Jacobs’ first triple of the night to jump ahead with 7:11 left in the half, 25-19. The Rainbow Warriors’ lead would grow as large as eight before a nightmare end to the half led to a Highlanders’ run to close the gap to one as the teams entered the locker rooms for halftime. 

After the break, the teams would continue the end-of-half trend of trading metaphorical blows with each other, trading the lead five times before the under-12-minutes media timeout when the Highlanders would hold a slim 48-44 lead. 

Eran Ganot’s squad turned up the heat on the defensive end from there. 

Following the timeout, Hawai’i started to chip away at the lead from the charity stripe with three makes in four attempts between Noel Coleman and Tom Beattie and six defensive stops in seven possessions. The ‘Bows would re-take the lead with 5:39 left in regulation behind back-to-back buckets from Coleman and Bernardo de Silva, 51-50, sending the 3,519 fans inside the Stan Sheriff Center into a frenzy.

That’s when the straightjackets came out. 

Hawai’i held UC Riverside without a field goal make from the 9:08 mark of the second half until there were 43 seconds remaining as McClanahan was busy icing the game from the free throw line and McKoy put the cherry on top with two makes of his own at the charity stripe to help snap a four-game home skid, 63-56. 

UC Riverside was led by Barrington Hargress and Nate Pickens, who had 18 and 10 points apiece in the loss. UH held usual standout scorer Isaiah Moses down for the most part as the guard finished the night 1-for-8 from the field and a total of four points.  

Hawai’i was led by McClanahan’s 14 points, including a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line as he battled being poked in the eye late to close out the win for the ‘Bows. Noel Coleman finished with 10 points in the victory for UH, snagging eight rebounds along the way to lead the team. 

The Rainbow Warriors will now hit the road once again, taking on rival Long Beach State on Thursday, January 18 in another increasingly important road trip in an ever-so-closing-tighter Big West standings. 

Hawai’i men’s basketball falls to Cal State Fullerton in overtime heartbreaker to open Big West play

Hawai’i men’s basketball falls to Cal State Fullerton in overtime heartbreaker to open Big West play

Hawaii men’s basketball falls to Cal State Fullerton in overtime heartbreaker to open Big West play

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED DEC 30, 2023

HONOLULU — The stumble from the Diamond Head peak to base continues. 

After finishing in fourth place in their title defense of the annual Diamond Head Classic to close out the non-conference schedule, the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors men’s basketball team saw its losing streak extend to three games after opening Big West conference play with a 63-61 overtime loss to Cal State Fullerton inside SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center Saturday night. 

Hawai’i would get the New Years’ Eve-eve party started with the game’s first points as Ryan Rapp banked home a step-through layup in his first career start for the Rainbow Warriors. The junior guard out of Melbourne, Australia entered the lineup for graduate transfer Matt Cotton — who played just five minutes and 42 seconds before putting his warmup back on for the rest of the night. Cotton did not play in the second half or overtime for undisclosed reasons. 

Fullerton guard DJ Brewton answered the Hawai’i bucket with long pull-up jumper to knot it at two before sinking a pair of free throws to give CSUF the team’s first lead of the game at 4-2. Rainbow Warriors’ guard Noel Coleman got his first points of the night after hammering home a two-handed jam off of a baseline dunk to tie it at four and gave the ‘Bows the lead once again after drilling a right-corner three-pointer to make it 9-6. The back-and-forth beginning reached the under-16 media timeout tied at nine after Grayson Carper responded to Coleman’s three with a triple of his own. 

The teams held each other without another point until Hawai’i’s Mor Seck was whistled for a goaltend with 11:28 left in the opening half, giving Fullerton an 11-9 advantage. Justin McKoy tied the game at 11 on the next possession and a 1-of-2 trip to the free throw line for Seck pushed UH back in front, 12-11. 

Back-to-back buckets for CSUF pushed the Titans ahead by three before Carper drilled his second three of the half to give the visitors a six-point lead, 18-12. The ‘Bows would cut into the lead with a Coleman reverse layup went through to push the senior over 1,000 points in his University of Hawai’i career (he reached 1K for his entire college career earlier this season against Hawaii Pacific), but that was the tightest the margin would get for the rest of the half as foul shooting woes continued to plague UH. 

Carper made his third three in as many attempts with 44 ticks left on the first-half clock off of a Hawai’i turnover to make it 27-18 before a Seck free throw and UH freshman Tom Beattie came up with a steal and score just before half to help the ‘Bows go into halftime down just six. 

Hawai’i shot just 35% from the field through the first 20 minutes, making one of 10 attempts from long range while turning the ball over seven times to build the first half hole. Coleman led UH with seven points as only him and McKoy managed to make more than one field goal for the home team to start action. 

Coming out of the break, the ‘Bows flew out with a furry to tie the game at 29 as McKoy drilled two three-pointers to quickly close the gap and Rapp got his second layup of the night to drop to excite the home crowd with a fresh setting across the rest of the half. The two rival programs traded blows, drawn charges and the lead as the second half rolled on, seeing Hawai’i jump back ahead in loud fashion as Juan Munoz got in on the fun with his first three-ball of the night — much to the delight of the home fans — to give the ‘Bows the 41-39 advantage with 10:37 remaining. 

Fullerton would not trail long, tying the game on the next possession and re-taking a two-point lead with a Donovan Oday steal and slam as the game ticked under 10 minutes to play. Hawai’i cut it to 43-42 after Seck split a pair of foul shots before CSUF’s Tory San Antonio pushed the lead back to three with a nice finish inside. 

UH’s Tom Beattie brought the score even again at 45 with a triple from the top of the key, but Brewton took the lead right back for the Titans and Justin McKoy would be whistled for a questionable offensive foul, his fourth personal of the contest, with 8:08 left to play that sent the UNC transfer to the bench and sent Ganot into a frenzy with the officials ahead of the under-eight media timeout. 

Hawai’i jumped back in front by one following the stoppage of play after forward Bernardo de Silva split a couple free throws and increased its lead to two after McClanahan got fouled late in the shot clock and went 1-for-2 from the line himself with 4:46 remaining, making it 49-47 in favor of the ‘Bows. 

Just as it looked like Ganot’s squad would force another shot clock violation with just over three minutes to play, Fullerton’s San Antonio rattled home a jumper to beat the shot clock horn and tying the game at 49-all and forcing a UH timeout. After the timeout, the ‘Bows would go to de Silva on back-to-back possessions down low and take a two-point lead with under 120 seconds left in regulation. 

It was CSUF’s Brewton showing off the clutch scoring gene with a running floater off glass over McClanahan with 1:38 left to make it 53-53, but again de Silva answered with a hoop on the other end, this time with an offensive rebound and putback going down while being fouled to give UH a three-point advantage. 

Brewton split a pair of free throws to cut it down to a two-point deficit before the Titans tied it at 56 apiece with under a minute to play and produced a stop on the other end to get a chance to win it at the buzzer but the try went awry. 

Hawai’i nearly had holiday heroics from McClanahan again, who tossed a three-quarter-court heave just milliseconds after the buzzer sounded that ended up going in anyway — instead going to overtime for the third time in the last four meetings against Cal State Fullerton. 

The ‘Bows took the extra period’s first lead behind a pair of McKoy free throws before three makes in four tries from the charity stripe for CSUF’s Oday put the Titans ahead with 3:57 left in overtime. The Rainbow Warriors jumped in front again after a nice give-and-go between Beattie and de Silva finished in a layup for the guard from New Zealand and a 60-59 advantage for the home squad. 

UH got the defensive stop on the ensuing possession but McClanahan was unable to get the following three-point try to fall with 1:42 left to play, keeping it a one-point game as the Titans called timeout. 

Much like the final possessions of regulation, CSUF went back to Brewton’s matchup against the smaller McClanahan and allowed the guard to use his size to re-take the lead with 77 seconds to play, 61-60. This time, de Silva missed the answer on the other end, seeing his right-handed hook roll off the rim and Cal State Fullerton’s John Mikey Square muscle home an insurance basket on the other end for the Titans with 26.2 seconds left in overtime to make it 63-60. 

Hawai’i had a chance to tie after McClanahan was fouled on a three-point attempt with 17 seconds to play, but the first two shots went off the mark before sinking the final one to make it a two-point game. CSUF’s Brewton left the door open for UH by missing two consecutive free throws, but a mishandled post feed and rainbow three-point try by Justin McKoy resulted in a miss and the fifth consecutive loss to Cal State Fullerton for the program. 

Brewton led Fullerton with 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the floor as the Titans bounced back from an opening loss to Big West play earlier in the week. CSU Fullerton finished the game forcing 17 turnovers by Hawai’i and held the ‘Bows to a 5-of-23 shooting performance from range in the loss. 

Bernardo de Silva paced the ‘Bows, posting another double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds as the six-foot-nine forward was featured on possessions late for UH. McKoy, who battled foul trouble for a large portion of the evening, followed closely behind with 12 points and eight boards in the loss. 

Hawai’i will look to snap its three-game losing streak when they return to action on the road to begin the new year, taking on CSU Bakersfield on January 4 for the team’s “first” road contest of the season. The ‘Bows participated in the Acrisure Invitational on the mainland for two games at a neutral site before playing Utah at the Delta Center for another “neutral” site contest. 

Hawaii’s offensive woes continue in loss against TCU, finish fourth in Diamond Head Classic

Hawaii’s offensive woes continue in loss against TCU, finish fourth in Diamond Head Classic

Hawaii’s offensive woes continue in loss against TCU, finish fourth in Diamond Head Classic 

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED DEC 24, 2023

HONOLULU — Coal in the stockings. 

The Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (8-4) men’s basketball team dropped consecutive games for the first time this season, falling to the TCU Horned Frogs (10-2) on Christmas Eve, 65-51, in the third-place matchup in the 2023 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic. 

For the second straight game, Hawai’i saw their opponent open up a multi-score lead off the bat as TCU drilled a pair of threes for a 6-1 lead before Noel Coleman made it a two-point game at the under-16 media timeout with tough and-one finish after being held scoreless for the first time this season against Georgia Tech. 

Hawai’i would take its first lead of the afternoon on a lob from JoVon McClanahan to Mor Seck with 13:14 left in opening half, 10-9, but the lead was short-lived. TCU re-took the lead on the very next possession with a Micah Peavy baseline jumper swishing clean through. UH’s Juan Munoz tied it at 13 following the under-12-minute media timeout, knocking down his first three of the afternoon. 

The Horned Frogs moved back out in front by five after Peavy responded with a three-pointer of his own and Ernest Udeh Jr. hammered home an alley-oop jam with 7:58 left in the opening half of play, but back-to-back buckets by UH’s Coleman brought the ‘Bows within four with Seck heading to the charity stripe with a chance to cut into the lead more. 

Unfortunately for Hawai’i, both of Seck’s free throws were off the mark and the Big 12’s Horned Frogs made the misses hurt by sprinting out on a 9-2 run to take biggest lead of the day for either side to that point, 31-20.  

TCU maintained a double-digit advantage up until the halftime buzzer when Coleman sunk a tough step back three at horn to make it 36-27 as the ‘Bows went to the locker rooms trailing by nine. 

Much like the matchup against Georgia Tech, Hawai’i started the second half out flat, allowing TCU to score the first four points back in play before Coleman drove the baseline and got it to go to get the ‘Bows back on track for a moment. The Horned Frogs would up the lead to 15 with just over 11 minutes remaining after Peavy put back a TCU miss, but a Juan Munoz-triple sparked some energy inside Stan Sheriff Center as the ‘Bows attempted to make another double-digit second half comeback — though this time without the services of starting guard and all-Big West preseason selection JoVon McClanahan, who reportedly could not finish the game due to an ailment.  

“Obviously, Jovon couldn’t go. He tried to give it a go early in the second half because he’s like that but you could tell he wasn’t the same, so we have to be smart about that,” Hawai’i head coach Eran Ganot told the media following the contest. 

Hawai’i was able to bring it within single digits for the first time since the opening minutes of the second half after Ryan Rapp got a nice layup in traffic to go down with 4:59 left to play, making it 57-48, but that would be the closest UH would get. 

TCU’s Trevian Tennyson’s first points of the second half pushed the visitors’ lead up to 15 once again with just over two minutes remaining and a pair of Jameer Nelson Jr. makes from the free throw line made it 64-48. Hawai’i’s Tom Beattie knocked down a three-pointer just before time expired to end a near-five minute scoring drought to close out the game, falling 64-51.  

TCU was led by Jameer Nelson Jr’s 13 points on 3-of-6 shooting from the floor and a 6-for-6 performance from the free throw line, scoring 10 in the second half to help the Frogs maintain a comfortable lead throughout the afternoon. Tennyson also finished in double-figures with 10 points in the win for TCU, who heads to home for a date with Texas A&M-Commerce on New Years’ Day before opening up conference play against #2 Kansas on January 6. 

Hawai’i was led by Noel Coleman’s 19 points as the senior was the only Rainbow Warrior to eclipse 10 points in the contest. UH was held to 33% shooting from the floor overall and just 6-for-25 from long range in the final game of the non-conference schedule for the ‘Bows. Juan Munoz was the only other Rainbow Warrior to make more than two field goals, finishing with nine points on three makes from long range.  

“Disappointing. Give TCU credit, they did a great job,” Ganot said postgame. “[TCU’s] effort, their defense bothered us a bit quite a bit. I thought it was a slugfest most of the game.” 

The ‘Bows will return to action on December 30, opening conference play by hosting Cal State Fullerton at SimpliFi Arena inside Stan Sheriff Center. The Titans ended Hawai’i’s season in 2022-23, eliminating the ‘Bows in overtime in the Big West Tournament quarterfinals.