No. 23 Saint Mary’s runs and shoots past Warriors in charity exhibition game, 92-58

Hawai’i point guard JoVon McClanahan and the Warriors felt defensive pressure from Augustas Marciulionis and the other Gaels throughout the evening. (photo by Brandon Flores)

Saint Mary’s turned Friday night’s charity exhibition game into a clinic on Top 25 men’s basketball, taking a strong hold on Hawai’i and not letting go for an impressive 92-58 victory.

An energetic and vocal crowd of 3,923 (4,902 tickets issued) in SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center watched sophomore guard Aidan Mahaney score a game-high 25 points and junior backcourt mate Augustas Marciulionis add 22 points as the Gaels, ranked No. 23 in the AP Top 25 preseason poll, established physical dominance and precise execution throughout the contest.

Alex Ducas chipped in with 11 points as Saint Mary’s used an early 7-0 run to take the lead for good at 13-6 and never look back. After the Warriors closed it to 15-11 on JoVon McClanahan’s two free throws eight minutes into the game, Marciulionis quickly answered by swishing a turnaround jumper to ignite a 9-2 run capped by Mason Forbes’ baseline jumper to stretch the lead to 24-13 with 9:37 remaining in the first half.

And after Harry Rouhliadeff’s 3-pointer cut it to 29-20 with six minutes left, Ducas responded with a putback and then a 3-pointer from the left wing to spark a 14-2 surge capped by Mitchell Saxen’s layup to push the lead to 43-22 with 2:22 remaining before the break. McClanahan’s 3-pointer at the buzzer closed it to 46-29, but the Gaels opened the second half with a 16-4 run to go up on Mahaney’s jumper, 62-33, and UH never threatened thereafter.¬†

McClanahan scored 16 points to lead the Warriors, but clearly showed disappointment afterward.

“We’re gonna find some guys who are gonna play hard every possession, offensively and defensively,” said McClanahan, a senior captain and point guard. “That’s what they did, that’s what good teams do — they show up and play every possession like it’s their last. They don’t turn the ball over, they don’t pout. At the end of the day, that’s just what we’re going to have to find within ourselves.

“(Saint Mary’s) found it early, and it’s obvious. They have a core, and they have some guys they can put in and trust, and make plays and keep going throughout the course of the game and play a full 40 (minutes) of basketball. And that’s what we’re going to find. That’s what good teams do.”

The Gaels return three players who have been named to the preseason All-West Coast Conference team, and their veteran leadership and confidence showed throughout the game. In particular, Saint Mary’s displayed a physical style on both ends of the court, resulting in 10 steals and a 31-20 advantage in rebounds. Unrelenting defense by the Gaels clearly affected Hawai’i’s outside shooting, which posted just three 3-pointers made in 14 attempts (21.4 percent).

And inside, it was clear dominance as Saint Mary’s outscored the Warriors in the paint, 42 to 22.

“They set the tone physically, with their guards getting into the paint, (and) getting second-chance opportunities,” UH coach Eran Ganot said. “I do think sometimes, if you don’t bring it … you kind of want to get exposed. They gave us a hard lesson that we deserved. And I do believe in our guys, that they will use it the right way.

“Every minute, every rep right now really is important for us, as we shape our group. We’re probably not as far off as we think, but we’re going to have to go to a level individually and collectively in terms of sacrifice to get to a level we want to be. It’s not going to be overnight, make no mistake about that.”

Graduate senior Justin McKoy, who started his career at Virginia and transferred here from North Carolina, said Saint Mary’s was comparable to top teams he faced in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“Today they executed really well, I haven’t seen execution like that from many teams at all, so credit to them, for sure,” said McKoy, who finished with seven points, three rebounds and two assists in 20-plus minutes. “I would also say, no excuses, it is early and we gotta figure it out and we’re going to figure it out. But at the same time, we’re (angry), that (34-point loss) is unacceptable.

“I’m new to the program, but I know that. We gotta fight back. We’re all fired up, we’re ready to go and get back to work.”

In the meantime, all net proceeds from Friday’s game will be donated to Maui wildfires relief efforts.

“No. 1, I’m really appreciative of everybody’s support coming together for this game, to raise money and awareness for Maui,” Ganot said. “No. 2, thank you to our fans, they were awesome … creating that environment tonight. And No. 3, credit to Saint Mary’s — they’ve been great, they are great, and they will be great. There’s some things we can look at from today, but what a great challenge and opportunity to play a team like that this early …

“Whether it’s against Saint Mary’s or any top team or the top of our league, we have to make jumps and improvements. They all do it in different ways in terms of style, but they all do it the same in terms of toughness, cohesiveness, mental fortitude, physicality … so I appreciate them for coming here, for giving us a heck of a challenge that we will learn and grow from.”

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