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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, December 28, 2002

HPU hammers Maryville, 96-60

By Brandon Masuoka
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Hawai'i Pacific men's basketball team continued its confidence-boosting preseason performance with a win against Maryville University-St. Louis last night.

Guard Aaron Abrams scored a season-high 19 points and forward Leandro Maruoka added 16 points and 10 rebounds as the Sea Warriors cruised past the Saints, 96-60.

An estimated crowd of 200 at the Neal Blaisdell Center watched the Sea Warriors fall behind early, but rally behind the play of Abrams and their tenacious defense.

The Sea Warriors, who compete in Division II, won their sixth straight game and improved to 8-1. The Saints, a Division III school, dropped to 2-5.

The 36-point difference was the most lopsided victory this season for HPU, a team that was picked to finish fifth out of six teams in a Pacific West Conference preseason coaches poll. Brigham Young-Hawai'i was picked to finish first, followed by Montana State University-Billings, Chaminade, Hawai'i-Hilo, HPU and Western New Mexico.

First-year HPU head coach Russell Dung played 10 players last night. Every one of them scored at least three points and played at least 12 minutes.

"It was a team effort," Dung said. "I wanted to get some guys in and get them comfortable with the floor."

Six minutes into the game, Maryville led 13-11 on guard Ben Hebl's 3-point shot, but the Sea Warriors went on a 17-3 run to lead 28-16 with 6:11 left. Abrams scored nine of his 15 first-half points during the spurt.

"Aaron went to the basket a lot more than shooting outside jump shots," Dung said. "Hopefully he'll stick with that for the rest of the season and he'll be successful."

HPU's defense forced 26 turnovers for the game, and caused Maryville to miss 21 of 29 first-half shots. HPU led 43-23 at halftime.

In the second half, the Sea Warriors turned to Maruoka, who scored 14 of his 16 points in the final 20 minutes. Maruoka, who is the reigning Pacific West Conference Player of the Week, came off the bench to shoot 8-of-11 for the game and ended the contest with a buzzer-beating dunk.

"Leandro always gives a spark," Dung said. "When Leandro comes in it's like having a sixth starter."

Added Maruoka: "My teammates passed me the ball tonight. I can't do anything without Nic Walters, Marvin Noble or Ty Riley passing me the ball. I was just there, catching the ball and shooting."

Maryville coach Matt Rogers said his team showed its potential by grabbing an early lead, but he said the Saints couldn't fend off the Sea Warriors.

Rogers played three seniors, three sophomores and six freshmen.

"We were outmatched," Rogers said. "That's one hell of a Hawai'i team. Hopefully our young guys will take some confidence away from this because they did battle."

Rogers said HPU's depth was much better than what he saw on film. He also raved about HPU's ball movement, offensive rebounding and active defense.

"Defensively, they're physical," Rogers said. "They get their hands on a lot of deflections. And in college basketball, offensive rebounds and deflections can win you a lot of basketball games."

The Sea Warriors outrebounded the smaller Saints, 49-27, including 22-6 on the offensive end.

MARYVILLE (MO.) 23 37—60

Scoring—Mary: Matt Damrell 9. HPU: Aaron Abrams 19, Leandro Maruoka 16, Ty Riley 13, Jay Bussey 12. Rebounds—Mary: Kevin Bartow 11. HPU: Maruoka 10. Assists—Mary: Sean Kennedy 3, Lincoln Redburn 3. HPU: Nic Walters 11.