BYU-Hawai’i Wins Battle of Toughness Over UH-Hilo
It is not often where you see a 6-foot-11 big man roaming the hardwood on a Division II men’s basketball roster.
Couple that with a thin and undersized front line on an opposing bench, and it usually spells trouble.
The University of Hawai’i at Hilo was on the short side of that equation on both fronts Saturday night, falling to Brigham Young University-Hawai’i by the final score of 83-70 in its home and PacWest Conference opener.
BYU-Hawai’i (4-2 overalll, 1-0 PacWest) featured the tallest player on the court, BYU transfer Ian Harward. The senior found himself with a favorable matchup every time he was on the floor, highlighted by the absence of UH-Hilo’s best post player, Darius Johnson-Wilson, who has not played this season and won’t be in the lineup for at least another month because of upcoming surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
“Not having him was a real key for us tonight,” said University of Hawai’i at Hilo head coach GE Coleman.
Harward got into foul trouble early in the first half and played just six minutes, scoring just two points. Thankfully for BYU-Hawai’i coach Ken Wagner, now in his 26th season, he has some depth up front, and the rest of his Seasiders picked up the slack, outrebounding UH-Hilo 26-13 in the game’s first 20 minutes.
UH-Hilo (0-5, 0-1) never found itself out of the game, partially because of foul trouble against BYU-Hawai’i. Youthful energy and talent from the Vulcans played a part, especially from freshman Patrick Ball, a transfer from the University of Idaho. Ball brought the crowd to life with a right-handed slam that cut the Seasiders’ lead to 27-22 with just under 5:30 to play in the first half.
Ball finished with a team-high 19 points on 8-of-17 shooting in his home debut.
“He played really well in the first half. He struggled a little bit there in the second half, but he’s a good player,” Coleman said of his newcomer. “He’s played really well our last three games.”
Adding to UH-Hilo’s size problem was the loss of its only true active post player left, Nate Walker, with just under nine minutes left to play because of fouls. That left UH-Hilo with a five-guard unit for the remainder of the game, with its tallest player at 6-foot-3.
The lead never changed hands as BYU-Hawai’i controlled the scoreboard from the start of the game. UH-Hilo’s Randan Berinobis scored on a layup to put the Vulcans within three points of the Seasiders at 63-60 with just under 6:50 remaining in the game. UH-Hilo wouldn’t get any closer towards the end, though, shooting 2-for-15 during the last 6:50 of the game to fall for the fifth time this season.
“We did not play as well, offensively. I thought we were in a hurry, maybe our first home game playing to the excitement of the crowd, instead of just doing what we do and working the ball around, because you can’t play offense on emotion,” said Coleman of the Vulcans’ offense, which shot 38 percent for the game and 27.3 percent from beyond the arc.
BYU-Hawai’i was led in scoring by 5-foot-7 floor general Justin Yamzon, who scored 20 points, shot 8-for-8 from the free throw line, dished out four assists, and hit a pair of first half treys.
“Yamzon is a good kid, a good player, but you can’t allow him to have 20 points in a PacWest game. That’s ridiculous,” Coleman stated.
Harward followed with 18 points and five rebounds, while Cory Lange (13 points, 10 rebounds) and Scott Friel (11 points, 12 rebounds) each tallied double-double performances. Justin Park came off of the bench to deliver 10 points and eight boards.
UH-Hilo was out-rebounded 53-38 for the game, with BYU-Hawai’i winning the offensive rebounding battle 17-10. Adding to the Vulcans’ woes was its poor 10-for-17 shooting from the free throw line.
Jordan Russell hit four treys and scored 15 points for UH-Hilo. Randan Berinobis added 12 points and seven rebounds in his first start of the season, while Chris Holmes tallied 10 points and seven rebounds.
Next up for the University of Hawai’i at Hilo is a matchup against the University of Hawai’i at the Stan Sheriff Center on Tuesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m., and the game can be heard on AM 850 Hilo and AM 790 Kona. It will also be televised by OCSports.
BYU-Hawai’i 42 41 – 83
Hawai’i-Hilo 34 36 – 70