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Hawai’i men’s basketball falls to #23 St. Mary’s in Maui fundraiser exhibition
BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED OCT 21, 2023
HONOLULU — The 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.
#HawaiiMBB falls to #23 St. Mary’s, 92-58, in the Outrigger Charity Invitational played in support of Maui recovery efforts.— Paul Brecht (@12brecht) October 21, 2023
The ‘Bows fought early, toyed with lineups later in their first outing of the 2023-24 schedule vs a national power.@HIsportsradio @SportingTrib
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.
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