HONOLULU, Hawaii – The final ESPN Ramada Bracketbusters game turned out to be a bad day in paradise for the Northern Arizona men's basketball team as Hawaii accelerated out of the gates and never let its foot off the pedal until the final horn. The Rainbow Warriors cruised to an 84-50 victory over the Lumberjacks on Saturday, dropping NAU's record to 10-17 on the season as they now enter the home stretch of the conference season.
"Hawaii is so athletic, long and talented," said head coach Jack Murphy. "They're physically imposing. They went with a bigger lineup than normal and that gave us problems. We tried to combat that by going zone and then they started hitting shots. It's tough to win on the road when the home team shoots like they did."
The Rainbow Warriors started the game on fire – perfect to be exact – as they made their first eight shots from the field. Hawaii would race out to a 24-10 advantage and did not miss a shot until the 12:30 mark. The Lumberjacks would trail by as many as 20 in the first half as Hawaii shot 66.7 percent from the field and took a 49-32 lead into the intermission.
Coming out of the break, Hawaii picked up where they left out and began the second stanza with a 10-3 run. Over the final 20 minutes, the Lumberjacks would struggle from the field as they converted on just 5-for-29 of their attempts from the field. The home team stretched their lead to as much as 36 with just under five minutes to go before settling for the 84-50 victory.
The Rainbow Warriors' size proved to a big factor in the game as they controlled the boards with a 47-32 advantage on the glass. Hawaii's Christian Standhardinger finished with a game-high 21 points and his teammate Vander Joaquim posted a double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Overall Hawaii had four players in double-figure scoring, while outshooting NAU 49.2 percent to 28.1 percent for the game.
The Lumberjacks were led by freshman DeWayne Russell's 14 points while senior Gabe Rogers chipped in 12 points, all on four first-half three-pointers. Sophomore Gaellan Bewernick grabbed a team-high seven rebounds as NAU was once again without the services of injured senior Stallon Saldivar for the second consecutive game.
Moving forward, NAU will return its focus onto the Big Sky as it looks to finish off its pursuit of a berth in the conference tournament.
"This is one of the more-talented teams we'll face all season, so it's helpful to know that in the next four games no team will be as physically imposing as the team we just faced," Murphy said. "This week was a good rest for us, but we need to be ready to take it up a notch for next Thursday because Big Sky play has been our focus all season long."
The Lumberjacks are back in action on Thursday in the Skydome versus Idaho State at 6:35 p.m. The first 1,000 fans will receive FREE pizza coupons courtesy of Papa John's and students who attend Cromer, Knoles, Leupp and Sinagua schools receive a $5 ticket discount for them and their guests. To purchase single game tickets for this game, call 928-523-5661.