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First Impressions

By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor

Yes, it’s just one game. And no, we can’t accurately assess the University of Hawaii men’s basketball team based on this one performance – an 83-50 win over Hawaii Pacific University last night at the SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center.

But we’re going to give it our best shot, anyway.

Generally speaking, and not at all surprisingly, it was an uneven performance by the Rainbow Warriors. This is practically a brand new team, having lost seven scholarship players – including all five starters – from the 2019-20 campaign. UH played ragged in the first half, going into half time with only a five-point lead over the Sharks. Hawaii looked much better in the second half, dominating HPU and pulling away to win by 33.

Here are a few initial thoughts about the Rainbow Warriors:

♦ FINDING THE RANGE: Head Coach Eran Ganot had said that, while UH lost its best shooter in Eddie Stansberry, the 2020-21 team has more three-point shooters. None of them showed up in the first half, as UH went 0-9 from beyond the arc. But senior co-captain Casdon Jardine buried three treys early in the second stanza to demonstrate his long-range ability, and the team shot 6 for 11 from three in that half. The feeling here is that the three-point shot can be a dangerous weapon for this year’s Rainbow Warriors – they’ll have four or sometimes even five capable shooters on the court at any given time – but the team has to be careful not to rely on the three too much.

♦ SHARING IS CARING: Of Hawaii’s 30 field goals, only 13 came off of an assist. That’s atypical of an Eran Ganot-coached team. The first half, in particular, featured more one-on-one plays than we’re used to. Guard-forward Junior Madut, in his debut, played out of control at times. He finished 1 of 8 from the field. It was easy to see his quickness and athleticism, however, and we’ll chalk up his subpar performance to the first-game jitters. Madut should wind up being one of the team’s most reliable scorers.

♦ POST PLAY: For last night, at least, this was the real bright spot. Senior transfer James Jean-Marie had  game highs of 21 points (shooting 8 for 10 from the field) and 11 rebounds for the ’Bows. But even beyond the numbers, Jean-Marie showed a willingness to mix it up inside. Hawaii will need that kind of aggressiveness when conference play starts. Returning center Mate Colina, who started the game, added career highs in both points (17) and rebounds (6). Of course, there’s a big difference between HPU and Cal Poly (Hawaii’s opponent to start Big West play), but clearly the potential is there. And sophomore Bernardo da Silva, who showed flashes of brilliance last season, is still nursing an injury and didn’t play last night.

♦ THE BACKCOURT: Hawaii certainly has depth at the guard positions. Justin Webster and Noel Coleman started against HPU, but freshman Biwali Bayles and sophomores JoVon McClanahan and Kameron Ng also got some quality minutes. McClanahan came in with the most hype, but he’s reportedly been hampered by an ankle injury and didn’t show much against the Sharks. Coleman, Bayles and Ng are capable ballhandlers and will be battling with McClanahan at the point position. Co-captain Webster, still a sophomore, looks to be the glue that holds the team together. He put up 12 points, 4 rebounds and 4 steals against HPU and will be counted on to provide leadership and scoring throughout the season.

♦ NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME: It’s kind of scary that Hawaii isn’t scheduled to play another game until the Big West opener on Dec. 27. With so many new players, this is a team that could use as many early-season games as it can get to prepare for the rigors of conference competition. They’re in a tough and unusual situation, but this is 2020, so what else is new?

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