HONOLULU – The University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team gave national power North Carolina a good run before eventually succumbing to the No. 5 Tar Heels, 83-68, before a sellout crowd Friday night at the Stan Sheriff Center.
The 2016 national runner-up entered the game averaging 95.5 ppg and having defeated its first three opponents by an average of nearly 29 points a game. But no one told that to a resolute Rainbow Warrior squad that trailed by eight at the half and as little as three in the second half.
Ultimately, the Tar Heels proved too much down low where they out-rebounded UH 46-23 for the game. A total of 19 were offensive boards as UNC out-scored UH 28-8 on second-chance points.
Isaiah Hicks led five Tar Heels in double-digits with 16 points, though UH did a solid job in containing All-American point guard Joel Berry to just two points on 1-of-9 shooting.
The ‘Bows were energized by a sellout crowd – the 24th all-time at the Stan Sheriff Center and the third in the last two seasons. It was frenetic pace early on, but points were at a premium. UH stayed close for much of the first half and trailed by just one, 17-16, midway through on a pair of back-to-back three pointers by Brocke Stepteau. The Tar Heels answered with a 13-2 run to gain some separation and held on to a 35-27 lead at the break.
The ‘Bows continued their fearless play into the second half as a Gibson Johnson bucket made it a 40-37 less than four minutes in. However the Tar Heels went on a 12-3 run over the next three minutes to push the lead to 13 points. UH climbed within eight points with six minutes left, but were undone by a trio of Carolina three-pointer, two of them by Nate Britt.
UH shot 55 percent in the second half but could do nothing to stop a UNC squad that converted on 63 percent of their attempts (19-of-30), including 6-of-10 from long-range after the break.
The Rainbow Warriors look to get back in the win column when they host UH Hilo on Tuesday, Nov. 22. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Stan Sheriff Center.