The University of Hawai‘i men’s basketball team started the year on the right foot with an exhibition win over the Chaminade Silverswords 83-66. The Rainbow Warriors faced a tough preseason test, as the Swords deployed a suffocating full court press from the tip-off until the dwindling seconds of the game. Nevertheless, the ‘Bows fought through, with three players scoring in double digits.
“It was a good win,” head coach Eran Ganot said. “We did a good job on the glass. There are (also) a lot of things to clean up. There were some good moments and some tough moments. It was a step we needed.”
Senior forward Zigmars Raimo racked up a double-double in the exhibition, with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Junior forward Samuta Avea wasn’t far behind with 18 points in the contest. Junior guard Drew Buggs rounded out the group with 11 points and a game-high 6 assists.
“It was good to get out for the first game,” Avea said. “I’m not too focused on what I’m doing. I just want out team to get better. We have a lot to work on.”
Hawai‘i came through with stifling defense of their own, holding Chaminade to just 3 second chance points, including none in the second half. They also held the Swords to a sub-40% second half shooting percentage.
Despite the opening score going to Hawai‘i on an Avea jumper, Chaminade made life difficult for the ‘Bows early, jumping straight into their full court press. With their aggressive defensive strategy, the Swords managed to keep the game close, as the lead changed hands six times in the opening five minutes. The ‘Bows eventually came out with a slim 10-9 lead in the frame.
Hawai‘i made use of center Dawson Carper’s height early, with the seven footer scoring six of the ‘Bows’ first ten points. He and forward Raimo cleaned up the board, en route to a game-leading 5 rebounds each in the first half. Carper finished the game with 8 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
“If they choose to play a small lineup, they’ll have to pay for it,” Raimo said. “We had 22 offensive rebounds. They might be faster and might get some steals, but we’ll crash the offensive board.”
With a steady diet of three-point jumpers and Raimo layups, the ‘Bows held onto the lead until late in the half. With 6:31 left on the clock, Swords forward Tyler Cartaino knocked down back-to-back buckets to tie the game and subsequently take the lead. It was quickly lost again, as Raimo knocked down a fast break bucket to tie the game. Freshman guard Justin Webster followed with a fast break layup to retake the lead. Webster showed flashes of his athletic ability, but struggled to get his shots to fall early. His layup was the only one of his five shots to go down in the first half.
“He’s got great mental fortitude,” Ganot said of the freshman. “He comes back the next day with a great attitude, you don’t see him hang his head. I don’t think he played well, as he would like to have played. He didn’t shoot it well. But I think he’s a great shooter. This is an experience that he needs go through, that all the guys before him went through. Because of who he is as a person and a worker, I think he’ll be better for it.”
Chaminade again tied the game at 1:07, but Raimo’s layup with 22 seconds left sent Hawai‘i to the locker room with a 37-35 advantage. Cartaino excelled for the Swords in the first half, tearing the ‘Bows defense apart for 14 first half points. Raimo led the way with 10 points for Hawai’i, knocking down all five of his attempts.
Junior guard Drew Buggs gave Hawai‘i some breathing room the to start the second half with the opening layup. He followed up the score with an assist to Avea, who knocked down the three-point jumper to extend the ‘Bows’ lead back to seven. Hawai‘i held onto the lead even as the Swords continued to fight. An 8-0 Chaminade run cut the lead down to just one, but the ‘Bows quickly re-upped with 5 straight points.
With the clock reading 10:38, sophomore forward Justin Hemsley knocked down a three-pointer, before putting the ball in the basket on a transition layup to give Hawai‘i an 11 point lead, their largest of the game up to that point. The ‘Bows continued to push against the persistent Swords defense, eventually extending their lead to 16 on a Raimo layup at 1:43 to effectively put the game away. Less than a minute later, the second unit took over to close out the game.
The Rainbow Warriors officially open the season with a homestand against Florida A&M in the Outrigger Resorts Classic on Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. HST.