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UH men's basketball team claims Rainbow Classic title

By Brian McInnis

LAST UPDATED: 1:30 p.m. HST, Nov 13, 2012

The Hawaii men's basketball team stood tall in keeping the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic title home.

Vander Joaquim and Christian Standhardinger posted double-doubles to lead the Rainbow Warriors to a 73-60 win over Houston Baptist in a midnight contest at the Stan Sheriff Center.

UH (3-0) used its size to great effect in prevailing in the ESPN-televised contest as part of the College Hoops Tip-off Marathon. Joaquim had 20 points and 10 rebounds in his first start of the season, earning him tournament MVP honors.

"I just would like to thank my teammates ... we played great team basketball tonight," the 6-10 senior center said. "My teammates just kept finding me.

"I'm taller than (HBU), I felt like I was a little stronger than them," Joaquim continued. "We're big and strong, we're all stronger than them. That's why we had to go inside, inside more."

Standhardinger had 14 points, 11 boards and five steals, while shooting guard Brandon Spearman added 15 points and small forward Hauns Brereton 11.

Those three were named to the all-tournament team alongside Joaquim. Point guard Jace Tavita had eight assists against six turnovers.

About 2,000 black-clad fans showed up for the 11 p.m. overnight tipoff. They saw UH win its 13th overall title in the OHRC, and the hosts' second since the event went to a four-team round-robin format in 2009.

"My family (in Chicago) woke up at 2, 3 in the morning just to watch me play," Spearman said. "I got like 100 messages back on my phone right now, I promise you."

UH also improved to 4-1 in Tip-off Marathon games.

Coach Gib Arnold's teams are unbeaten in the event in three years. However, the OHRC was scrapped last year because of scheduling difficulties. The coach seemed pleased to have it back.

"I'm really happy I got this new hat," Arnold said afterward while sporting a cap bearing the longstanding rainbow logo of the OHRC. "It feels good for us to win the championship. It's important for us to learn how to win."

UH last started 3-0 in 2010, Arnold's first season, when it won its first five games. Up next is Illinois (2-0) on Friday at the Sheriff. 

The 'Bows shot 49.1 percent from the field, despite going only 2-for-13 (15.4 percent) on 3-pointers, compared to 37.9 percent for HBU (2-1). UH held all three opponents in the Classic to under 40 percent shooting.

HBU (2-1) of the Great West Conference was making its first appearance on ESPN's flagship station. After trailing by 15 at halftime, the Huskies hit two 3-pointers and drew two charges to cut a 20-point UH lead to 12 midway through the second half.

UH countered with a 9-0 push to make it 66-45 with 6:30 to play. By the time the Huskies cut the lead to 12 again with some fullcourt pressure, they were nearly out of time with 1:45 on the clock.

The visitors struggled all night to contain UH's big men. Joaquim, a questionable participant going into this weekend because of a preseason knee injury, was dominant from the outset. The Angolan tallied 16 points and seven rebounds in the first half.

"The big boy, we had no answer for," HBU coach Ron Cottrell said. "We had trouble keeping him out of his comfort zone. And any time we tried to double him, they've got shooters, too."

Joaquim made his first start after coming off the bench in wins over Maryland-Eastern Shore and Arkansas-Pine Bluff. He shot 8-for-13 from the field and 4-for-5 at the foul line.

"He's a load down there. We've gotta keep feeding him. He's our go-to guy, the anchor of this team," Arnold said. "A healthy Vander is a lot to deal with."

When it wasn't Joaquim, it was Standhardinger and freshman Isaac Fotu doing damage inside. It was a boon for UH on a night where the 'Bows top perimeter player, Brereton, was off the mark (2-for-8) from the field.

Spearman connected on four of his first five shots — including several fast-break layups — for 10 points in the first eight minutes.

"I gave the team the push that they needed and my teammates helped me out," Spearman said. 

UH continued to build a lead with its size, which fueled transition points off quick outlet passes or mismatches in the halfcourt when the 'Bows slowed it down.

At the end of the half — at which UH led 38-23 — UH tried out its biggest lineup for the first time this season. Joaquim and forwards Standhardinger and Fotu (nine points, six boards) all played at once.

The teams traded baskets to open the second half. UH opened up a 53-33 lead on a take by Spearman set up by backup point guard Manroop Clair.

Cottrell said afterward the setting and his program's first appearance on ESPN may have factored in to their slow start.

"Our guys played as if they were in their first game on national TV and against a very good opponent," he said.

Forward Art Bernardi scored 22 points with eight boards to lead the Huskies. He and teammate Marcus Davis rounded out the all-tournament team.

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