Warriors shoot past Central Arkansas, 95-76

Senior guard and co-captain Noel Coleman (in white) scored a game-high 25 points, dished three assists and made one steal Sunday evening to help Hawai’i top Central Arkansas. (Chris Kadooka photo)

New Year’s Eve is about four weeks away, but Hawai’i and Central Arkansas apparently did not want to wait that long before setting off their own college men’s basketball fireworks Sunday evening.

UH won the shootout, 95-76, to improve to 6-1 but not before the 1-9 visiting Bears made a game of it in the first half by matching the Warriors with swishes from long range time and again. A “Military Night” and “Keiki Night” crowd of 3,119 in SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center watched Noel Coleman finish with a game-high 25 points and Juan Munoz add 19 points off the bench — including 5-for-5 shooting from 3-point range — as Hawai’i rebounded from last Thursday’s 79-66 loss to Utah in Salt Lake City.

“I’m really proud of our group, overall handling a tough stretch, they’ve done a good job improving in quick turnarounds,” Hawai’i coach Eran Ganot said. “We saw a different style tonight, both groups were on fire, we missed some open looks and they were up seven (22-15). Juan ignited a run for us, I’ve always said we have great confidence in our shooting.

“Sometimes teams will switch (defenders) one through five, and they switch one through five ball screens and actions. Our guys in a quick turnaround did a good job offensively of using that to our advantage. Defensively … we obviously have some work to do.”

After the Warriors cut into an early lead on JoVon McClanahan’s 3-pointer from beyond the top of the arc to make it 16-15 seven minutes into the game, Tucker Anderson answered with his own 3 and Masai Olowokere followed with another triple to put Central Arkansas up, 22-15, a minute later.

UH rallied back behind Munoz, and after a 3-pointer by Anderson gave the Bears their final lead at 34-33, Munoz responded with a triple to put the Warriors ahead for good at 36-34 with 5:23 remaining in the half. Johannes Kursipuu later rattled in a 3-pointer from the right corner to close a seven-point lead to four, 41-37, but Justin McKoy answered with a layup to trigger a 13-4 run to end the half, punctuated by McClanahan’s fadeaway 3-pointer from the right sideline at the buzzer for a 54-41 lead.

Munoz hit all five of his 3-pointers in the first half, from various ranges and places beyond the arc.

“I just think finding my teammates was the thing that got me going, I saw them start to pick up the energy and they kept encouraging me, I really appreciate that from them,” said Munoz, who also had three rebounds, three assists and one steal. “Something that we try to harp on is playing (at) a fast pace, making the right decisions. So (our) guys were running, they were looking for the ball and so I think my job was just to find them and make sure they were in good positions to score.”

Anderson hit another 3-pointer to cut the lead to 58-49 with 16:39 remaining in the game, but that was as close as Central Arkansas would get as Bernardo da Silva sank two free throws to put the lead at double digits to stay.

“We had so much respect watching these guys (the Bears) on film, and talking to teams they’ve played, over the last couple years they’re really dynamic offensively,” Ganot said. “They can really hit you on back cuts, and kick-aheads in transition, and they have a lot of shooting … they were comfortable. I was really pleased that we defended in the second half, that’s why there was separation. We continued to be good offensively, (and) we defended in the second half.”

After shooting a torrid 58.3 percent (7 of 12) from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes, the Bears cooled off to 18.2 percent (two of 11) in the second half.

Hawai’i, meanwhile, remained deadly from long distance, shooting 45.5 percent (five of 11) on 3-point attempts after halftime.

Warriors senior da Silva recorded a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds, and also made three blocks. McKoy added 11 points, four assists and one steal.

UH will return to action on Sunday versus crosstown rival Hawai’i Pacific at 5 p.m. in the SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center.

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