HONOLULU – The new-look University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team fell short in its season-opener with a 69-68 loss to SIU Edwardsville in the Outrigger Resorts Rainbow Classic Friday night at the Stan Sheriff Center.
It was a case of missed opportunities for the Rainbow Warriors who rallied from an 11-point second half deficit, before succumbing to Cougars (1-0) for their first season-opening loss in eight years. The ‘Bows were ultimately undone by 19 turnovers and ice-cold shooting from three-point land (3-of-16).
UH, sporting a brand-new starting five, was led by senior transfer Noah Allen‘s 21 points and seven rebounds. Sophomore Sheriff Drammeh added 17 points and three assists, while freshman center Ido Flaisher provided a huge boost off the bench with 13 points and seven rebounds in 15 minutes of action.
Tre Harris led three Cougars in double-figures with 13 points.
It was a back-and-forth game throughout with 11 ties and 13 lead changes. UH led by as many as 12 points in the first half, but SIU closed the gap as the Rainbow Warriors held on to a slim 38-36 lead at the break.
A six-minute drought without a field goal put UH into an 11-point hole, 57-46, with less than 10 minutes remaining. But the ‘Bows wouldn’t quit and 16-4 run, capped by an Allen put-back but the UH back in charge, 62-61, with 4:50 left.
From there it went back-in-forth as SIUE held a one-point lead with 17.6 second. On UH’s final possession Allen missed a three-pointer though the ‘Bows retained possession with 4.3 seconds remaining. However, UH was unable to get a final shot off as Burak Eslik stripped Drammeh of the ball in the waning seconds, one of the Cougars’ 13 steals for the game.
Hawai’i will next face Texas State on Sunday at 5:00 p.m., preceded by SIUE and Florida Atlantic at 2:30 p.m. Texas State defeated Florida Atlantic, 61-57, in the opening game of the tournament.