Big West preseason Player of the Year Vander Joaquim showed why he has NBA potential, as the 6-foot-10 center scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in Hawaii’s 70-63 early Tuesday morning win over Houston Baptist. The junior big-man missed the last five weeks of practice due to a MCL tear he suffered in preseason training in late September, but looked very sharp, showing a wide variety of high post moves and back-to-the-basket skills.
Hawaii enters the Big West Conference after spending the last 33 seasons as members of the Western Athletic Conference. The Warriors were not carried to victory by Joaquim alone. Nebraska-transfer Christian Standhardinger also had a double-double (14 points and 11 rebounds), and showed off the athleticism that will make his a match-up problem for many Big West programs.
This was the third straight appearance in the early-morning Marathon Madness time-slot and was easily their most impressive. Brandon Spearman and Jace Tavita looked poised and polished in the back court, and Isaac Fotu (Sporting one of the game’s best afros) provided excellent support up front, logging 9 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks.
For the Huskies, this was their first appearance in front of a nationally televised audience and while they came away with the loss, the young D-I program looks to be headed in the right direction. Senior forward Art Bernardi lead all scorers with 22 points, and the Huskies fought hard until the final whistle, trimming a 20 point deficit to just seven in the last six minutes of the game.
Hawaii is projected to finish fourth in the Big West, but if Joaquim stays healthy and can continue to shot at a high percentage (61% through three games), and if Tavita and Spearman continue to produce out of the backcourt, this is a team that can challenge Long Beach State for the top spot in the conference.
The win earned Hawaii the title of Rainbow Classic champions, having defeated Maryland-Eastern Shore and Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the process. Joaquim was named the tournament’s Most Valuble Player.
(Image courtesy of Warriors Insider)