Spirited competition in practice blurred the line between starter and reserve in the eyes of Hawaii basketball coach Gib Arnold leading up to Wednesday’s meeting with New Orleans.
Come game night, three members of the Rainbow Warriors’ starting five scored in double figures and the bench provided a spark that ignited a 91-58 rout of the Privateers at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Senior guard Brandon Spearman enjoyed his most productive game since returning from an ankle injury with a game-high 16 points and the Rainbows hit a season-high 10 3-pointers while improving to 4-2.
Forward Christian Standhardinger posted his second double-double of the season with 13 points and 14 rebounds and point guard Keith Shamburger ended his night with 11 points and six assists. Forward Isaac Fotu finished with six points and seven rebounds and was credited with a career-high four blocked shots.
The contributions continued down the bench with freshman Dyrbe Enos breaking the Rainbows out of a sluggish start with the first of his three 3-pointers and backup point guard Quincy Smith adding 10 points and four assists, two coming on alley-oop lobs. Davis Rozitis and Aaron Valdes had seven rebounds each.
“Our bench this whole last week has been beating our starters in our scrimmages and the stuff we’re doing,” Arnold said. “I was one drill away from starting the other guys, not because I was mad at the starters, I just thought they had a great week and played really well.
“I don’t see us as a bench. I don’t see us as a starting five. I like this team as a whole. … I think it’s a team that’s pretty deep. Deepest one I’ve had since I’ve been here that’s for sure.”
No UH player was on the court for more than 27 minutes on Wednesday, which figures to help keep the Rainbows fresh heading into Friday’s matchup with Montana at the Sheriff Center.
After the game Fotu said he would have an X-ray taken on an injured finger.
While UH’s bench provided 37 points and contributed to a stretch of 10 consecutive defensive stops in a telling first-half run, Arnold pointed to the Rainbows’ 57-28 rebounding advantage as the game’s most telling statistic. UH grabbed 23 offensive boards leading to 17 second-chance points.
Those numbers helped UH overcome 22 turnovers, also a season high, although Shamburger and Smith had just three between them while running the point.
The Rainbows’ early ball-security issues helped New Orleans edge out to a 17-15 lead as both teams slogged through the game’s first 18 minutes.
Enos then triggered a 15-0 UH run by drilling the first of his two 3-pointers of the half. Smith contributed five points to the outburst which Spearman capped with a 3-pointer and a driving jumper that extended the Rainbow lead to 30-17.
“I was just trying to play ball. We were down, I just try to shoot with confidence,” said Enos, who is 6-for-9 from 3-point range in UH’s last two games. “In my head I think I should make the 3s that I take.”
New Orleans closed to seven before Enos and Spearman connected from long range on successive possessions and UH took a 39-26 lead into halftime.
The rout was on when Rainbows outscored the Privateers 22-5 to open the second half. A 17-0 run was highlighted by Rozitis’ dunk off an alley-oop from Smith and Enos’ third 3-pointer of the game.
The Rainbows cruised from there and the lead hit 30 when Valdes skied for a lob from Smith for another spectacular dunk. The Rainbows stretched the margin to as many as 39 with 5:19 left in the game.
“We had the first five stops (in the second half) and just went out from there,” Spearman said.
“It was all defense the second half.”
New Orleans guard Isaac Mack led the Privateers (1-3) with 14 points. But UH held forward Cory Dixon, who entered the game averaging 19.7 points and 10 rebounds, to seven points on 1-for-4 shooting from the field and two boards.
“I thought Fotu did a really good job on him,” Arnold said. “Christian had him for a little bit and Mike Thomas had a little bit, but give Fotu a lot of credit for that.
“We did double down on him when he caught it. … Tonight the guys did great job defensively on him.”
The game was delayed by a scuffle early in the second half after players from both teams got tangled up. After the officials reviewed the play on the replay monitor, New Orleans’ Terrance Syon was given a technical foul.