Warriors thankful, but still not fully satisfied after 70-61 victory over Northern Arizona

Hawai’i sophomore center Mor Seck scored seven points, blocked two shots and grabbed one rebound in 16 valuable minutes off the bench in Tuesday night’s 70-61 home victory over Northern Arizona. (Matt Osumi photo)

Kansas, the No. 1-ranked team in the nation, did not play its best basketball on Tuesday in SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center, and lost to No. 4 Marquette.

On that same colorful Maui Invitational court less than three hours later, home team Hawai’i also did not play its best against visiting Northern Arizona, but managed to defeat the Lumberjacks, 70-61, in late night nonconference basketball action.

So on Thanksgiving Eve, the Warriors are certainly grateful, but also not fully satisfied.

A loyal and vocal crowd of 1,559 watched JoVon McClanahan score 13 points, dish five assists and grab three rebounds and Justin McKoy add 11 points and seven boards as the Warriors improved to 3-0. Trenton McLaughlin scored 14 points and grabbed five rebounds and Jayden Jackson added 13 points with five boards for NAU, which fell to 2-4.

UH jumped out to leads of 9-2, 12-4 and 16-6, but the Lumberjacks crept back in it and actually took a 25-21 lead with 5:35 remaining in the first half. The Warriors took the lead back for good at 28-27 after McClanahan’s free throws with 2:46 left before intermission and were ahead, 35-29, at the break, but Northern Arizona hung around and cut the lead to 47-46 on Oakland Fort’s short jumper with 10:31 remaining in the game.

Four minutes later, the lead was 58-55 after Carson Basham’s two free throws, but McKoy answered with a short baseline leaner to ignite a 12-2 run punctuated by Mor Seck’s thunderous slam dunk that made it 70-57 with two minutes left, effectively sealing the victory.

“(We’re) very appreciative of the win, we know we could have played better, we didn’t take another step,” Hawai’i coach Eran Ganot said. “But we did enough to win, and I want to give NAU a lot of credit. I thought we came out of the gates fairly well … but we gotta be more consistent and separate it when the game changes and get 50/50 balls and offensive rebounds. That was disappointing.

“But this will help us, to play different styles. They got after us, they force 15 turnovers a game. I think we have room to grow, but it’s early in the year. We need reps.”

Matthue Cotton and Juan Munoz each added 10 points for the Warriors, with Munoz’s points — including two 3-pointers — coming in just 13 minutes off the bench.

“Once I hit those 3’s, I just felt more comfortable,” said Munoz, who missed all of last season due to a torn achilles tendon. “Every shot I took, my comfort (level) went up, and I knew I was just going to go back and play defense. So I wasn’t really worried about the missed shots, because I know they will fall (eventually).”

UH will now spend Thanksgiving in Southern California before playing its first road game of the season versus Texas-Rio Grande Valley in the Acrisure Invitational at Palm Springs, Calif. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. Hawai’i time, and the game will be broadcast live via radio on CBS1500 AM.

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