Sports

#20 Fort Lewis Outlasts UHH in Naniloa Tourney Opener

November 26, 2013, 9:46 AM HST
* Updated November 26, 9:50 AM
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Alex Herrera got all of the attention for his shot blocking and scoring ability coming into the Naniloa Volcanoes Resort Thanksgiving Tournament, but Nick Tomsick stole the show on opening night against the University of Hawai`i at Hilo.

Tomsick scored 21 points, tied for his season high, while shooting 8-for-17 from the field and 3-for-7 from beyond the arc as the Skyhawks, ranked 20th in the National Association of Basketball Coaches Division II poll, defeated the Vulcans 83-74 on the opening day of the three-day tournament.

“He just went to work on us,” said UH-Hilo head coach GE Coleman after the game. “They just did a good job of reversing it and then getting him in an isolation against us, because we were switching a lot. He’s a heck of a player.”

Both teams played to an even first half, thanks in part to a strong first half from UH-Hilo’s Brandon Thomas. The returning senior scored 11 points and grabbed six rebounds, helping to give the Vulcans an advantage in the boards. Thomas, however, faced foul trouble in the final 20 minutes, playing just seven minutes in the second half. He picked up his third foul in the first three minutes of the final frame.

Fort Lewis (3-0) opened the second half on a 9-0 run in the first 3:18 to take a 49-40 lead, thanks in part to a trey from Tomsick. JoeBell Austin started the run with a basket and a free throw and Jared Smith capped the scoring surge with a three pointer of his own.

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“We didn’t rebound well to start the half and we settled for shots,” Coleman said of his team’s cold second half start. “We weren’t attacking the rim. We weren’t getting quality looks. Against a team that will probably win 23-24 games this year and have a chance to win the RMAC (Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) and host the regionals, you can’t give them extra points.”

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After a basket from UH-Hilo’s Kevin Dancer, the Skyhawks scored five more points in a row to take a 12 point advantage, their biggest of the game. The Vulcans continued to battle, cutting the lead down to four with 3:03 remaining with another basket from Dancer, but couldn’t cut closer.

“I thought that when we got the pace in our favor, we were in pretty good shape,” said Coleman. “But, we didn’t dictate the pace for about 7-10 minutes, not consecutively, but throughout the game. I really thought that hurt us.”

Herrera, a 6-foot-9 junior who entered the game with 118 career blocked shots and 24 points per game on the season, wasn’t quieted by his teammate’s success. He blocked four shots to add to his career totals while scoring 18 points and grabbing 16 rebounds.

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“Fort Lewis is a good team. That big kid (Herrera) inside is special. We did some things to double the post and try to get the ball out of his hands, but he did a heck of a job,” Coleman said. “They put four shooters around him, so they’re really hard to defend.”

Fort Lewis shot 50 percent (29-for-58) from the field. The Vulcans, however, shot just over 36 percent (24-for-66) from the floor.

UH-Hilo (2-2) was led by Joey Rodriguez, who came off of the bench to score 15 points and grab five rebounds. Derek Owens followed with 11 points and eight rebounds while Thomas added 11 points and eight boards.

Fort Lewis will face Northern New Mexico at 5:00 p.m. Tuesday. UH-Hilo will face Tiffin after the conclusion of the first game, with tip-off scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The night cap can be heard on ESPN Radio and ESPNHawaii.com

Fort Lewis 40 43 – 83

Hawai`i-Hilo 40 34 – 74

Tiffin 82, Northern New Mexico 63

A 16-0 scoring run through the first 5:30 of the second half helped Tiffin University cruise by Northern New Mexico in the opening game of the Naniloa Volcanoes Resort Thanksgiving Tournament.

Tiffin, hailing from Ohio, improved to 3-0 with its victory, pushed by Joe Graessle’s 20 points. Ashton Khan added 14 points.

Northern New Mexico gave the ball away 24 times in the loss. Matthew Brito scored 17 points and hit five three-pointers while Eric Garcia and Christian Barraza each added 10 points.

Northern New Mexico 22 41 – 63

Tiffin 34 48 – 82

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