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Despite loss to ‘Canes, UH hoops exceeding expectations

A couple of true tests have not shown the best of the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, but they’ve remained a competitive squad and appear to be improved early in this young season.

Hawaii suffered just its second home loss on Friday night against Miami, which came into the Stan Sheriff Center ranked No. 6 in the nation. The ‘Bows hung tough with the ‘Canes for much of the game, but Miami separated itself late in the second half to pick up the road win, 75-57.

After playing evenly in the first half and going to the locker room tied up 33-33, Hawaii saw its offense begin to struggle as Miami did a better job closing out the three-point line in the second half. The ‘Bows were also unable to slow the Hurricanes offense in the final 20 minutes. Miami went 16 for 23 from the field in the second half and Hawaii just couldn’t keep pace.

But that was an elite team and the ‘Bows did not appear overmatched or intimidated. It was another strong game for Sheriff Drammeh, who was named the Big West Player of the Week after his 20-point effort and game-winner against Utah Valley last Sunday. Drammeh followed it up with 17 points and four assists to lead Hawaii against the ‘Canes.

Jack Purchase had one of his better stat lines and did some early damage against Miami. He tallied nine points (all on three-pointers) and grabbed 12 rebounds. Purchase has been quiet as he continues to settle into his role amongst the big-man rotation with Gibson Johnson and Mike Thomas. He performed best of the three on this night, but his shot hasn’t been as dependable as Hawaii will need it to be for the offense to run most efficiently.

Miami managed to limit Drew Buggs to just 1 for 6 shooting, five points and four assists. Buggs has been the somewhat unexpected engine for the offense. Over the recent three-game stretch against Utah, Prairie View A&M and UH Hilo, Buggs averaged 14.7 points on 16 for 28 shooting. As a redshirt freshman, Buggs has been the surprising breakout star in this 2017-18 season. He shows flashes of play making ability and his style has suited his teammates to this point.

Hawaii has had great point guard play with some of its recent starters in Keith Shamburger and Roderick Bobbitt, but it’s the spot where the team was most visibly lacking last season. Drammeh and Brocke Stepteau tried to fill that role, but neither is a prototypical point guard. Buggs has come in and seems to be the piece who can turn that from a negative position to a positive one.

The ‘Bows (7-3) took on Davidson (4-5), Saturday night at the Diamond Head Classic. The visitors are probably a slight favorite, but this would be a good win for Hawaii to pick up on its home floor. It would require a better effort from Buggs and a continued confident stroke from Purchase, but Hawaii is looking like a well-coached and motivated team as we head into the holiday season.

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David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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