Huge home stand sweep revives Hawai’i men’s basketball’s season

Huge home stand sweep revives Hawai’i men’s basketball’s season

Huge home stand sweep revives Hawai’i men’s basketball’s season

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED FEB 10, 2024

HONOLULU — How about that? 

The University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team downed UC Davis (15-9, 10-3 Big West) on Saturday night, 87-70, to pick up the team’s fourth win in the last five games behind double-doubles from Bernardo de Silva and Justin McKoy and another Noel Coleman masterpiece. 

“Really proud of this team for tonight and this week, and really, leading up to this week,” Hawai’i head coach Eran Ganot expressed postgame. “That was a heckuva team we just played, and we’ve talked about trying to put it together in all three phases… in the context of Thursday, in the context of today, [I] couldn’t be prouder.” 

Hawai’i (14-11, 6-7 Big West) spent the first half of the game unconscious from the field, making 15 out of 21 attempts from the floor including an unfathomable 9-of-11 from distance in the opening half as the ‘Bows worked the lead to double-digits at the break, 45-35. Everyone got in on the fun for UH as the bench poured in 12 points over the opening 20 minutes as freshmen Tom Beattie and Akira Jacobs went a combined 3-of-3 from long range in the period and reserve guard Kody Williams handed out three dimes. 

“We’ve said we’re a good shooting team [so] it was nice to see some breakthroughs,” Ganot said of his team’s scorching shooting performance. “This doesn’t just happen tonight. They’ve been shooting well in practice, shot it well the other night…we’ve still got a long road but hopefully we can build off of this.” 

While the ‘Bows offense cooled off a bit after halftime, the defense turned up the heat as Hawai’i held UC Davis to 8-of-31 shooting from the floor after halftime and a pitiful 2-of-13 from long range on a rare cold night for star backcourt duo Elijah Pepper and Ty Johnson. The Aggies’ backcourt was held to a combined 5-of-19 from the floor in the second half as the Rainbow Warriors dominated the glass for the second straight game. 

“You aren’t going to [completely] hold those guys down, they’re too good. Making them work for everything, making them work on the defensive end and [have the right matchups] … Give our guys credit for really working their tails off,” Ganot said of his team’s second half defensive chops.  

UC Davis was led by Pepper’s 27 points on 25 shots as the guard played nearly 36 minutes of the 40-minute contest. Backcourt duo Ty Johnson ended the night with 15 points and six rebounds in the loss. 

Hawai’i got double-digit performances from four different players as Justin McKoy and Bernardo de Silva recorded double-doubles with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 19 points and 12 rebounds respectively. Noel Coleman, who has been under the weather as of late, poured in another 18 points on an efficient 7-of-12 shooting before fouling out late while freshman Tom Beattie added 11 points off the pine for the ‘Bows. 

“Having been around [Noel] for a long time, it’s been fun to watch him grow and develop and he’s had great moments,” Ganot said of his starting shooting guard. “I said the other day [against UC San Diego] I thought it was his best game in a Rainbow Warrior uniform because you put it all in context… sometimes it takes so much out of you on the offensive end but he’s able to do it offensively, defensively against the best teams and the best schools. [That context]’s why I think you could argue it was his best week in this uniform.” 

After back-to-back wins against the Big West’s 2nd-place program, Hawai’i has suddenly catapulted itself back into the Big West’s top-4 conversation (also thanks in part to UC San Diego’s Division I reclassification period running through this season) as UH sits a game behind CSUN for the fourth seed in the Big West Conference tournament. The ‘Bows now hit the road for a two-game trip against a Cal Poly team that has begun to solve some things as of late and UC Santa Barbara, the program currently tied with Hawai’i on the conference ladder.  

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.