GAME NOTES: The host Hawaii Rainbow Warriors set their sights on the 49th annual Rainbow Classic title, when they take on the New Mexico State Aggies in final round action from the Stan Sheriff Center.
Gib Arnold's fourth season at the helm of the Rainbow Warriors has started out in fine fashion, as Hawaii has opened up with wins over Tennessee State (85-55) and Western Michigan (78-68). Hawaii is taking aim at its 14th Rainbow Classic championship and Arnold is a perfect 8-0 in this event, leading the Rainbow Warriors to titles in 2010 and 2012.
Former conference foe New Mexico State stands in the way of Hawaii achieving that goal, as the Aggies come into this contest at 1-1, losing to Western Michigan in the season-opener (70-64), before bouncing back with a 70-55 victory over Tennessee State a day later. Marvin Menzies' squad will head back to the mainland to host UTEP next.
New Mexico State leads the all-time series with Hawaii by a count of 14-4.
After a poor offensive showing in the opener against Western Michigan, New Mexico State played much better against Tennessee State, shooting a healthy .468 from the floor en route to the 15-point win. Daniel Mullings, who had just seven points against the Broncos, led four Aggies in double figures with 16 points in game two. Joining him in double digits were DK Eldridge (14 pts), Sim Bhullar (12 pts) and Tshilidzi Nephawe (11 pts). A strong tandem in the frontcourt, Nephawe and Bhullar combined for 19 rebounds, with Nephawe completing a double-double with 11 boards. In all, NMSU owned the glass, outrebounding TSU 41-23.
The Aggie frontcourt will have a tough task ahead of it, as Hawaii has dominated up front, behind the play of 6-8 senior Christian Standhardinger and 6-8 sophomore Isaac Fotu early on. Standhardinger is shooting .462 from the field through two games and leads the team in scoring at 18.5 ppg, while ranking second in rebounding (8.0 rpg). The stat line is reversed for Fotu, who ranks second in scoring (15.0 ppg) and first on the glass (9.0 rpg). Keith Shamburger rounds out the double-digit threats through two games at 11.5 ppg, while fellow guard Garrett Nevels (9.5 ppg) is on the fringe. Standhardinger and Shamburger shared the top scoring honors in the last win, finishing with 17 points apiece. Fotu recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Quincy Smith came off the bench to chip in with 13 points.
Arnold knows how to navigate this tournament field and with the way Hawaii has opened the season up, another Rainbow Classic title should be staying put.
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