HONOLULU – The University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team fought valiantly but eventually came up short to No. 3 Oklahoma, 84-81, Wednesday in the semifinals of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center.
The Rainbow Warriors (8-2) gave it all they had against one of the top teams in the country and nearly posted their first win over a Top 5 team since 2005. But the Sooners (10-0) were stronger down the stretch, converting nine of their final 11 free throws while UH made only one of its last 10 field goal attempts.
UH junior Roderick Bobbitt had a game to remember, scoring a career-high 32 points on 8-of-12 shooting – including 19 in the second half – with six assists and three steals. OU’s Buddy Hield tallied 27 points and converted two clutch free throws that put the Sooners ahead 83-79 with 11.6 seconds left.
After two Bobbitt free throws, Khadeem Lattin made one of two at the charity stripe to put the Sooners ahead by three. UH had one last chance with 1.2 seconds left but Bobbitt’s halfcourt heave missed the mark.
UH’s Stefan Jankovic chipped in with 17 points, 15 in the first half, while guard Isaac Fleming and center Stefan Jovanovic each tallied eight points. Lattin finished with 17 points and eight boards and Isaiah Cousins had 14 points and six assists for the Sooners, who advance to the championship game against Harvard on Christmas Day. Hawai’i will play in the third place game against Auburn at 1:30 p.m.
The ‘Bows trailed by as much as 16 in the first half after the Sooners used a 13-1 run to take a 21-5 lead. OU converted its first five 3-pointers including four by Hield, within the game’s first five minutes. But UH stormed back with eight unanswered spurred by threes from Fleming and Sai Tummala, cutting the deficit to 25-17.
Then, following a technical foul by Oklahoma’s Dante Buford, a Bobbitt trey ignited another UH spurt which included an and-one and dunk by Jankovic to put the ‘Bows ahead 27-26. All said, UH out-scored the Sooners 18-1 during a run that covered nearly six minutes.
The teams traded baskets until Cousins closed the half with a bucket that put the Sooners ahead 41-40 at the break. Hield led all scorers with 18.
The ‘Bows would not go away in the second half. Down 61-55, Fleming hit his second trey of the game but was immediately called for a technical foul for taunting, his fourth personal foul that sent him to the bench with more nearly 12 minutes left in the game. The Sooners pushed their lead back to seven before the ‘Bows rallied to within two after a pair of Bobbitt lay-ups. UH eventually tied it at 71 following a Jankovic dunk.
The Sooners took the lead at 77-75 after a pair of Hield free throws following Fleming’s fifth personal foul with 1:42 left. UH missed its last eight field goal attempts and OU’s Jordan Woodard made two free throws with 37.2 seconds left for a 79-75 lead.
Bobbitt’s third trey pulled UH to within 81-79 with 13.3 seconds left giving the junior his first career 30-point game.
The teams take off Christmas Eve before returning to the court for the final day of the tournament on Christmas Day.