Warriors rout UT-Rio Grande Valley, 76-57

Senior guard Matthue Cotton scored a game-high 23 points, off 5 for 7 shooting from 3-point range, to help Hawai’i blow past Texas-Rio Grande Valley Friday in the Acrisure Invitational. (File photo courtesy Brandon Flores Photography)

Matthue Cotton scored a game-high 23 points and fellow senior guard Noel Coleman added 17 points Friday evening to help Hawai’i blow past Texas-Rio Grande Valley, 76-57, in the first round of the Acrisure Invitational at Palm Desert, Calif.

A neutral site crowd of 735 at Acrisure Arena watched Bernardo da Silva contribute 14 points and seven rebounds as the Warriors improved to 4-0 and advanced to Saturday’s championship final against San Diego, which is 5-1 after defeating Arkansas State, 71-57, in Friday’s second game. The title match is set for 5:30 p.m. (Hawai’i time) and will be broadcast live via radio on CBS 1500AM.

UH used an early 9-0 run to lead 14-4 six minutes into the game, before the Vaqueros cut it to 14-10 two minutes later. Cotton then hit a 3-pointer to ignite a 19-5 run capped by his two free throws to stretch the margin to 33-15 with 7:44 remaining in the first half, and da Silva sank a pair of free throws 19 seconds before the break to put the Warriors ahead 43-23 at intermission.

The closest Texas-Rio Grande Valley got in the second half was 70-55 with 3:23 left, and Coleman and da Silva then hit short jumpers in the paint to extend it to 74-55 with 2:30 remaining and effectively seal the victory.

“Our guys were prepared, we had a great week of traveling, we prepared well the past couple days on a quick turnaround,” Hawai’i coach Eran Ganot said in his postgame radio interview. “We had a lot of respect for this group that we were playing — they were No. 2 in the country each of the last two years in getting to the line, and they force a lot of turnovers. There were some things I wish we had back in the second half, but you can see us getting better, the glimpses are more consistent.

“For a stretch there, we played as well as we had (all season) on both ends.”

The Warriors held the Vaqueros to 33 percent (21 of 63) shooting, including eight percent (1 for 12) from 3-point range.

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