HONOLULU – Hawaii needed every bit of a big first-half run to hold off a late-charging North Dakota squad on Tuesday at the Stan Sherriff Center on Tuesday. The Rainbow Warriors built a 23-point first half lead on the strength of a 20-1 run, but saw their lead whittled down to just three in the waning moments.
Senior Brandon Spearman came up with the big shots and led the home team with 19 points, but it was a 3-pointer from Hauns Brereter that put his squad back up by six that was the back-breaker in this one.
North Dakota (1-3) juniors Aaron Anderson and Josh Schuler each had 17 points to lead the frantic comeback attempt, but the visitors dropped their third straight road game to open the season, while Hawaii (4-1) improved to 4-1 on its season-opening home stand.
“We got back in the game because of our defense,” UND head coach Brian Jones said. “We were feeling sorry for ourselves there in the first half and it affected our offense.
“We started playing better defense and that resulted in better offense. That last 24 minutes (of game time) was what we are accustomed to seeing,” Jones added. “I’m proud of the way we fought back, but we have to find a way to play a full 40-minute game.”
Brereter had missed his first four shots of the game from deep before connecting on his first to put UH ahead 69-63 with just over two minute to play. Schuler responded with an old-fashioned 3-point play to make it a 69-66 contest with 1:06 to play.
After a defensive stop, UND would have two more chances to try and force overtime in that final minute, but a turnover by Jamal Webb and a missed 3-pointer by Anderson would allow the home team to escape with the five-point win.
Anderson’s last attempt from deep came up just short as he was knocked to the floor by a UH defender, but no foul was called on the play and Spearman iced the game with a pair of free throws with just five ticks left on the clock.
Junior Jamal Webb had season-highs with nine points, nine rebounds and six assists, while classmate Brandon Brekke reached double figures with a season-high 10 points. Webb helped UND hold a 39-36 advantage on the glass.
Hawaii went on a couple of big runs in the first half and looked to be in cruise control through the first 16 minutes of the game. The Warriors led 39-17 before Schuler and company got things going on the offensive end, trimming their disadvantage to only 15 points thanks to a 10-3 run to close the half.
Schuler capped the run by knocking down a 3-pointer from well beyond the arc in the final second of play.
Unfortunately, the slow start by UND would prove costly. The Rainbow Warriors opened the game on a 7-0 run, but it was the 20-1 spurt after UND had cut the deficit to 9-6 that will be resonate in this one.
UH big man Vander Joaquim was as advertised, scoring 10 first-half points on 4-of-6 shooting from the floor. The Rainbow Warriors shots 51.5 percent as a team in that opening 20 minutes, including knocking down five 3-pointers.
The UND defense tightened in the second half and Joaquim was held scoreless, but Spearman and Isaac Fotu picked up the scoring slack after the break, adding 10 points apiece.
Both teams hit nine 3-pointers in the game. Anderson went 5-for-8 from beyond the arc and knocked down both of his free throws to lead a 15-for-20 effort by his squad at the stripe.
UND closes out a 3-game road swing next Wednesday at South Dakota State. Tipoff with the Jackrabbits is set for 8:30 p.m. CT.