HONOLULU – The University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team built a 20-point halftime lead then held off a furious second-half rally by UC Riverside for a 72-63 victory Thursday night at the UCR Student Rec Center. UH improved to 10-11 overall and 4-4 in the Big West with its first road win of the year.
With the win UH stayed in the thick of the Big West race, moved into a four-way tie for fourth in the conference standings. The Rainbow Warriors also avenged a painful 70-64 home loss to UCR (6-13, 4-4 BWC) just eight days earlier.
A massive first-half effort keyed the win. UH held the Highlanders without a field goal for the final 9:19 of the half, part of a game-changing 25-1 run that gave UH a 38-18 lead at break. At one point UH scored 19 unanswered points during the decisive run. UH shot 56 percent from the floor, including 7-of-11 from deep, and forced 10 UCR turnovers to build its first-half lead.
However, it wouldn’t be an easy win. UCR came out the locker room on a 10-0 run and shot 75 percent (18-of-24) in the second half. When Dikymbe Martin buried a three-pointer, the UH lead was down to just 64-61 with 1:18 left in the game.
But UH weathered the storm. Gibson Johnson hit a layup on UH’s next possesion, then drew a UCR charge on the other end of the court. UH sealed the game with six straight free throws in the final 20 seconds byBrocke Stepteau and Sheriff Drammeh. UH, the top free throw shooting team in the conference, finished the game 16-of-19 from the line (84 percent)
Drammeh led UH with 15 points, along with Jack Purchase, who also added a career-high nine rebounds. Stepteau added 14 points and seven assists.
UH will continue its road trip with a contest at CSUN on Saturday, Feb. 4 at the Matadome. Tipoff set for 7:30 p.m. PT/5:30 p.m. HT. The ‘Bows won the first meeting between the teams, 80-77, earlier this month on Leland’s Green three-pointer with less than a second left.