UPDATED: Warriors soar past Eastern Washington, 71-51

An earlier-than-usual start time resulted in early excellence in the University of Hawai’i basketball team’s 71-51 victory over Eastern Washington on Sunday.

The Rainbow Warriors raced to a 10-point lead in the opening minutes and never looked back to improve to 2-0 in the Outrigger Rainbow Classic. A crowd of 2,589 showed up for the 5:00 pm start at SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center, and watched Hawai’i control both ends of the court throughout the contest.

Kamaka Hepa led the Warriors with 17 points and nine rebounds. He drained his first three shots of the game, including two 3-pointers, to lead the Warriors to a 12-2 lead four minutes into it.

He was one of four Hawai’i players scoring in double figures. Noel Coleman added 15 points and four assists, Bernardo da Silva had 14 points, six rebounds and four assists, and Samuta Avea scored 10 points.

“Really excited about the win,” Hawai’i head coach Eran Ganot said. “I’m really proud of our effort. When we’re playing that hard, with that kind of effort, a lot of things can follow suit. And it did.”

The Warriors will not have much time to celebrate the win. Hawai’i will face Yale at 7:00 pm on Monday night in what amounts to the championship game of the Outrigger Rainbow Classic. The four-team tournament follows a round-robin format, but both Hawai’i and Yale are 2-0 after the first two days of the tournament.

“The reward is a quicker turnaround (to prepare) against a (2022) NCAA Tournament team who is coming in 3-0 and playing really well,” Ganot said of facing Yale. “That’s what you live for.”

Hepa, a 6-foot-10 senior forward, shot 7 for 11 from the field, including 3 of 7 from 3-point range. Including his eight points in the opening minutes, he scored 12 in the first half, to lead the Warriors to a 33-23 advantage at intermission.

“One of the big emphases from the last game was starting with some fire in us,” Hepa said. “I think the last game (against Mississippi Valley State) we didn’t necessarily come out with enough spark and enough energy and that kind of showed … I think our team did a good job of adjusting and making the changes that our coaching staff wanted from us.”

Photo courtesy of Chris Kadooka

Avea opened the second half with back-to-back 3-pointers to increase the Hawai’i lead to 39-23, and Eastern Washington never got closer than 10 the rest of the way.

The Warriors turned it into a blowout in the final five minutes, allowing all 14 players in uniform to receive game minutes.

“Being dialed in from beginning to finish,” Da Silva said of the Hawai’i effort. “Today we just locked in to doing it for 40 minutes … that’s what was on our minds before the game started.”

Ganot also had high praise for the Warriors’ defense, particularly the efforts of Coleman and Avea.

“Noel and Samuta, I’m just so proud of them,” Ganot said. “Obviously they produced (offensively), but their defensive efforts against two all-conference guys … Noel works hard to be in such good shape so he can play both ends. Samuta has asked for some of those challenges and that really helps us.”

The Eagles shot 38.8 percent from the field, including just 18.2 percent (2 for 11) from 3-point range. Top scorers Angele Allegri (10 points on 3-of-8 shooting) and Steele Venters (4 points on 2-of-6 shooting) combined for just 14 points.

Hawai’i shot 44.6 percent from the field, including 39.1 percent (9 for 23) from 3-point range. Sophomore point guard Justus Jackson contributed seven points on 3-of-4 shooting and two assists off the bench for the Warriors.

In Sunday’s first game, Yale defeated Mississippi Valley State, 80-51. Monday’s Rainbow Classic finale is scheduled to start at 7:00 pm, and will be televised on Spectrum Sports.

Eastern Washington, which dropped to 0-3, will face Mississippi Valley State at 4:30 pm in a game for third place.

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Outrigger Rainbow Classic
Friday’s Results

Yale 74, Eastern Washington 60
Hawai’i 72, Mississippi Valley State 54

Sunday’s Results
Yale 80, Mississippi Valley State 51
Hawai’i 71, Eastern Washington 51

Monday, November 14
4:30 pm – Mississippi Valley State vs. Eastern Washington
7:00 pm – Hawai’i vs. Yale

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