By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
After being embarrassed by Cal State Fullerton on Friday night, the University of Hawaii men’s basketball team put together its most complete game of the season last night against these same Titans, winning 76-53. From Friday’s 16-point loss to Saturday’s 23-point victory, that’s a stunning 39-point turnaround. Here are some quick observations about last night’s win:
♦ The ’Bows featured a balanced attack that featured four starters scoring in double figures: Junior Madut (14), James Jean-Marie (13), and Justin Webster and Casdon Jardine (12 apiece). As a team, the Rainbow Warriors shot 47.1% from the field, including a blistering 56.1% in the second half.
♦ With both Noel Coleman and Bernardo da Silva out with injuries, Hawaii had to go with a tighter eight-man rotation. At least in the short term, that proved beneficial for UH, as the three primary reserves – Mate Colina, Justin Hemsley and JoVon McClanahan made the most of their extended minutes. Colina contributed 5 points and a team-leading 11 rebounds; Hemsley chipped in with 8 points and 5 boards; and McClanahan had 4 points and a team-leading 5 assists.
♦ McClanahan is looking more and more comfortable leading the UH offense. Although he came to the program with a reputation as a big scorer (23.5 ppg last season at Sheridan College), the 5-11 point guard is settling in as a pass-first floor leader with a knack for setting up his teammates. McClanahan had 9 assists in the two games against Fullerton. His scoring ability may still reveal itself in time, but for now he and starter Biwali Bayles are forming a solid duo at the point.
♦ Guard-forward Junior Madut might have played his best overall game as a Rainbow Warrior on Saturday. His 14 points led the team, but more than that he used his length and quickness to play outstanding defense. Fullerton’s Tray Maddox scored 23 points against Hawaii on Friday, but last night he was limited to just 12 points on 5 for 11 shooting.
♦ Shooting guard Justin Webster really stepped up his game. On Friday, he led UH with 20 points and, in all honesty, looked like the only Rainbow Warrior who showed up ready to play. Last night, Webster continued his inspired play, taking the ball to the rim with both aggressiveness and fearlessness. It’s no wonder that, even though he’s only a sophomore, Webster is a team co-captain.
♦ Above all, last night Hawaii displayed all the important things that they lacked on Friday: hustle, heart, grit and toughness. They out rebounded the Titans, 48-21. And while CSUF shot 53.6% from the floor on Friday, Hawaii held them to 42.2% shooting in the rematch.
Time will tell whether last night’s performance was the start of a season turnaround or merely a one-night aberration. But it was a win that was sorely needed. We all know the coaching staff faced a major challenge in developing this team – with eight new players – during the middle of a pandemic, but last night showed that when the pieces work together, this has the makings of a solid Rainbow Warrior team.
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