Hawai’i Pacific downs Westmont late to win PacWest opener, 78-74

Hawai’i Pacific downs Westmont late to win PacWest opener, 78-74

Hawai’i Pacific downs Westmont late to win PacWest opener, 78-74 

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED DEC 2, 2023

HONOLULU — The Hawai’i Pacific University Sharks (5-3, 1-0 PacWest) took down the Westmont College Warriors (4-3, 1-1 PacWest), 78-74, on Saturday afternoon at the Shark Tank, using Diggy Winbush’s game-high 27 points to down the former NAIA-turned-Division 2 program. 

The afternoon started with a bang when Warriors’ forward Jalen Townsell hammered home a poster dunk on the break for the game’s first points. The teams traded baskets in a fast-paced start to the contest, tied at nine after five minutes of play as HPU’s Diggy Winbush and Matthew Van Komen paced the Sharks. 

A Winbush 3-pointer following the first timeout of the day gave HPU their first lead of the afternoon, going up 12-11 with 14:28 left in the opening half of play. Westmont would respond in turn with a Drew Ramirez triple on the next possession, taking back the momentum with a 13-4 run to jump ahead by eight, 24-16, and force a Sharks’ timeout. 

Following the break, HPU would heat up from long distance, knocking down three straight from deep in 90 seconds to go back in front by one. The Sharks continued the run by establishing Van Komen deep in the post and Josh Niusulu finding the Midas touch from 3-point territory to make it a six-point advantage with 3:11 left in the 1st half. 

The HPU lead would grow to double-digits just before halftime as Charlie Weber, an ETSU transfer, made his debut for the Sharks and got his first basket in the sharkskin-grey uniforms for the home squad. Westmont leading scorer Anthony McIntyre drilled a three-pointer right before the halftime break to cut it to a seven-point deficit for the visitors going into the locker room. 

Westmont started the second 20-minute frame similar to the first, quickly scoring seven points to cut it down to a two-point advantage for the host Sharks just 95 seconds out of the halftime break. The Warriors continued their march, taking a 45-44 lead with 15:40 remaining in regulation following an Amir Davis coast-to-coast rebound and layup to force HPU head coach Jesse Nakanishi to call timeout.  

After the stoppage, Westmont’s Adrian McIntyre scored seven straight points from for the Warriors, increasing the visitors’ lead to four with 13 minutes left to play. They would continue the hot start out of the half, pushing the lead to as much as six before the tides turned in favor of the Sharks with under 10 minutes in regulation. 

Six straight HPU free throws helped the hosts re-take the lead with 9:19 left, but McIntyre responded with three makes from the charity stripe of his own – one coming on an and-one – to keep the Westmont advantage at four. A pair of layups by Winbush and Maj Dusanic kept the Sharks within a score as the teams hit the under-eight-minute media timeout with Westmont leading, 63-61. 

Winbush cashed in on a free throw following the break in the action to cut it to a one-point deficit for HPU and continued to backpack the Sharks’ offense back into the lead, drilling a left-wing triple with 4:05 left to play to give Hawai’i Pacific back the lead, 69-67. The Sharks would not trail again. 

HPU pushed the lead up to seven points with 2:43 remaining after Melo Sanchez drilled a left-wing three. Sanchez finished the night with just seven points on eight total shots from the floor as the Warriors worked to limit opportunities for the Sharks’ star. 

Westmont wouldn’t go quietly, quickly putting up seven points to tie it after Townsell hit a desperation three as the shot clock expired to tie the game at 74 with 15 seconds left in regulation. The Warriors would bump into Winbush following the inbound, sending the guard to the line for his 26th and 27th points of the day and reclaiming the lead for HPU. 

McIntyre tried but couldn’t get a jumper to go on the following possession, seeing the ball knocked out of bounds but remain with Westmont after the miss. On the ensuing inbounds, HPU’s ball denial forced the Warriors (who were out of timeouts) to try and throw the ball off of 7-foot-4 Matthew Van Komen with 3.2 seconds remaining but the carom from Van Komen’s leg redirected the ball into the body of the Westmont inbounded for a turnover. Josh Niusulu was fouled afterwards on inbounds and knocked down a couple free throws to ice the win for Hawai’i Pacific and put the game out of reach, 78-74, in the team’s PacWest opener. 

Westmont, who shot 46% from the floor in the loss, was led by Adrian McIntyre’s 24 points as the guard was a +1 in 36 minutes of action for the Warriors. Jalen Townsell finished with 14 points, a clutch three and a poster dunk for the visitors, who split the first two of three games in Hawai’i, as the Warriors head over to Hilo to take on the Vulcans to close out the Hawai’i trip. 

HPU was led by Winbush’s season-best 27 points (12/15 FT) as the guard continued his fantastic start to the season in his new home. Winbush drew eight fouls throughout the contest, making life difficult on the multitude of defenders that Westmont sent at him. Josh Niusulu finished with 13 points, drilling three of five attempts from long range to help power the Sharks to victory.  

Hawai’i Pacific University basketball is back in action on Monday, December 4 in the Shark Tank as they host Fresno Pacific University, trying to extend their win streak to five straight. The game will be broadcast on Hawai’i Sports Radio Network, along with the women’s basketball game prior, on 95.1 FM, AM 760, and streaming on hawaiisportsradio.com, with both games available on demand where most podcasts are found.