In its first championship game appearance in 13 years of hosting the tournament, the University of Hawaii men’s basketball team downed SMU 58-57 in the Diamond Head Classic finals on Saturday afternoon at the Stan Sheriff Center on a last-second 3-pointer by JoVon McClanahan.
Hawaii never took the lead in the second half until McClanahan’s pull-up 3-pointer with 0.9 seconds remaining.
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Hawaii shot just 6 of 24 in an erratic first 20 minutes that saw SMU start the game on 6-0 run before UH grabbed a 18-15 lead with 5:19 left in the first half. The Mustangs then went on a 16-4 run to enter halftime with a 31-22 advantage.
Regular starters Noel Coleman, Bernardo da Silva and McClanahan all fouled twice and were removed early in the first half, prompting Hawaii head coach Eran Ganot to turn to players used sparingly during the season. None played beyond their regular minutes more than walk-on true freshman point guard Kody Williams, who had two steals but no offensive statistics in 12 minutes played. In the six games he played in prior to Saturday, the most he played was for four minutes against Hawaii Pacific on Nov. 19.
SMU extended its lead to 38-26 on Samuell Williamson’s jumper with 16:33 remaining in what proved to be its biggest lead of the game until Hawaii slowly clawed its way back until the end.
After two missed SMU free throws, Hawaii found itself down 57-55 with five seconds left, more than enough time for McClanahan to take an inbounds pass and dribble to the other side of the court to hoist his game-winner. McClanahan was also fouled with 0.9 seconds left and missed the ensuing free throw, but SMU’s desperation heave with 0.6 second left was well off, giving UH a Christmas miracle.
Hawaii improved to 9-3 and won the Diamond Head Classic for the first time in 13 tries, while SMU fell to 5-8.
Sunday’s game marked the conclusion of the nonconference slate for the Rainbow Warriors, who open Big West play against UC Davis on Thursday at home. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.