Big second half helps Hawaii beat UC Davis in Big West men's opener

Dec. 30—The University of Hawaii basketball team made its point—from the point—in Thursday night's 74-66 victory over UC Davis in SimpliFi Aren at Stan Sheriff Center.

The University of Hawaii basketball team made its point—from the point—in Thursday night's 74-66 victory over UC Davis in SimpliFi Aren at Stan Sheriff Center.

A crowd of 4, 063—the largest for a home game this season—saw point guard JoVon McClanahan score all 23 of his points in the second half as the'Bows won their Big West opener to improve to 10-3 overall. They have won five in a row.

McClanahan did not take a shot in the first half after experiencing early foul trouble. Justus Jackson, sporting a new look, provided relief at the point, scoring a career-high 12 points and committing only one turnover in 26 minutes, 51 seconds.

"The biggest difference in the game—other than our point guard play from JoVon and Justus—was our ability to take care of the ball in the second half, " UH coach Eran Ganot said.

In the first half, the'Bows committed 13 turnovers. They had only two after the intermission.

It was that ball control and gritty defense that translated into more scoring opportunities in the second half, when they converted 14 of 30 shots.

McClanahan picked up his second foul with 9 :42 left in the first half, then was assessed his third foul with 17 :11 to play. Kamaka Hepa, one of the'Bows' best outside shooters, also sat after being called for a third foul early in the second half.

"The refs were calling some weird fouls early, " McClanahan said. "Even a ref came up to me and said, 'my bad, I think I got you on one.' It is what it is. We're ready as a team. I know everybody was ready to play. I know Justus will come in and do his job."

Jackson is a second-year'Bow who joined in December 2021. "It's kind of his first year, " Ganot said, noting Jackson's limited time in practices and games last season. "There will be ups and downs. But he came in and did a great job."

Jackson was able to energize the break and apply pressure on defense. He also hit two key 3s. It was a fresh start for Jackson, who cut his long hair. "For the new year, " Jackson said.

The score seesawed most of the second half until McClanahan took charge. Four days earlier, McClanahan hit the winning shot in the championship game of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic. On Thursday, it was about continuing the momentum.

McClanahan buried a turn-around jumper to cap an 8-0 run that boosted the'Bows to a 54-46 lead with 5 :03 to play.

When the Aggies made a late run, McClanahan responded with back-to-back 3s. On the first, he was open for two Missississippis. "It's a tough shot, " McClanahan said of being that open. "I'm glad I netted it."

The'Bows scored their final 11 points on free throws.

"Defensive letdowns, " UCD guard Elijah Pepper said of the outcome. "That's probably why they built their lead at the end. We had miscues. They made their runs. We made our runs. It came down to they made more plays than us—more defensive plays, more offensive plays at the end."

Pepper, who entered averaging 19.7 points, struggled in the first half while being guarded by Samuta Avea. Pepper scored 12 of his 16 points after the intermission and finished with 7-for-21 shooting.

"That's not an easy cover, " Ganot said of Avea's assignment. "The ability to keep them to low percentages, (Avea )."

UH center Bernarndo da Silva finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Christian Anigwe led the Aggies with 21 points and eight rebounds.