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UH men’s basketball team rallies to defeat Hawaii-Hilo on Big Island

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KAILUA-KONA >> A slow start for the Hawaii men’s basketball team was alleviated by a dominant second half in a 79-66 win over Division II Hawaii-Hilo tonight at Kealakehe Gym.

UH evened its record and won consecutive games for the first time this season, though not without having to overcome an 11-point first-half deficit to the Vulcans. It was the teams’ first regular-season meeting in 21 years, and UH’s first game against anybody on the Big Island in a decade.

Freshman point guard Shaquille Stokes returned to the starting lineup and scored a season-high 21 points. Junior center Vander Joaquim came off the bench a double-double for the second straight game, with 19 points and a career-high 17 rebounds. Junior forward Joston Thomas added 17 points off the bench on 6-for-8 shooting.

The Rainbow Warriors (4-4) went on a 15-2 run to open the second half, then put away the game emphasizing defense and size. A 14-0 spurt put away the Vulcans (4-3) after UHH pulled within two.

UH was noticeably off its game early, perhaps because five key players arrived 2 hours before tipoff due to final exams on Oahu. Senior guard Zane Johnson had a 31-game streak of making a 3-pointer snapped. The team’s top scorer finished 2-for-10 for six points.

Hilo led the entire first half, though UH got back in it with a 9-0 run to pull within 25-23. UH would never pull ahead in the period, though, and the Vulcans led 34-32 at the break.

Guard Terrell Mack led the Vulcans of the PacWest Conference with 21 points, including five 3-pointers.

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