Warriors face familiar foe in Hawai’i Pacific

UH center and co-captain Bernardo da Silva scored 15 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked three shots last Sunday to help the Warriors defeat Central Arkansas, 95-76. (Photo by Chris Kadooka)

It is Finals Week at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, but the UH men’s basketball team will take a break from studying on Sunday to test itself against crosstown rival Hawai’i Pacific.

Tipoff for the game is set for 5 p.m. in SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center, and it will be broadcast on live statewide TV by Spectrum Sports and carried live via radio via ESPN Honolulu (1420AM).

Both teams have seen success early this season, as UH is 6-1 with the only loss coming to Utah in Salt Lake City on Nov. 30, and HPU at 5-2 having won five straight games — including a 56-51 home victory over Fresno Pacific on Monday.

Although the Sharks compete in NCAA Division II, first-year head coach Jesse Nakanishi is very familiar with the Warriors, having served as UH’s Director of Basketball Operations for three seasons under Eran Ganot.

“He’s done a great job, he’s going to do a great job,” Ganot said. “He’s a smart coach, he’s a hard worker, he’s worked at different stops, he studies the game and he’s going to find what’s best for his current team to be successful and he’s done a great job at that. This is a big team, they’re big inside, they have good returners, they have good scoring, they share the ball, they play right. There’s a reason they’ve won five in a row.

“He’s got a great staff, obviously. He’s a smart coach, and he’s obviously done a great job already.”

In the victory over Fresno Pacific, HPU was led by 6-foot-5 junior wing Josh Niusulu (15 points), 7-4 senior Matthew Van Komen (eight rebounds) and guard Kordel Ng (five assists in just 16 minutes). Van Komen is a graduate transfer from Saint Mary’s, and Ng is a Kamehameha graduate from Kane’ohe.

The Warriors, meanwhile, are coming off an exciting 95-76 home victory over Central Arkansas. Senior guard Noel Coleman led the way with a game-high 25 points, and senior guard Juan Munoz added 19 points off the bench — shotting 5-for-5 from 3-point range in the first half alone.

Also making a huge contribution was 6-9 senior center Bernardo da Silva, who finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds and three assists.

“When the guards shoot like that, it opens it up not just for them, but everybody else,” da Silva said. “My teammates being able to hit outside shots kind of helped me open up in the paint. They were able to find me in a couple high-low looks and I was just trying to make myself available.”

While da Silva acknowledged Nakanishi’s familiarity with the UH personnel and playbook, he said it still comes down to execution.

“They can know the plays and stuff like that, but they still need to go out there and stop it,” da Silva said. “Even in conference play, once it’s February or March, at that point everyone kind of knows what we’re going to run, so it’s on us to be able to execute at a high level and be able to make plays.

“That’s what it comes down to, is making plays. They’re going to know our stuff, but as long as we execute and just make plays, we’ll be alright.”

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