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Oh, so close

The Hawaii basketball team did everything but win the game in an 89-84 double-overtime loss to Utah State on Saturday night.

If there is such a thing as an exhilirating loss, this was it.

The night started with the Hawaii football team performing the haka at midcourt, and the crowd of more than 8,000 at the Stan Sheriff Center never stopped cheering after that.

There was also the amazing effort of Hawaii point guard Miah Ostrowski, who had the best game of his career and nearly willed the Warriors to the upset – just four days after the death of his father.

Even after the No. 25-ranked Aggies were finally able to put away the Warriors in the closing seconds of the second overtime, the crowd gave the Warriors a rousing ovation.

“If we could bottle that, and say Coach Arnold what is your defnition of a program? It was tonight,” Hawaii head coach Gib Arnold said. “It was the student body packed, waving (towels). It was fans there early, tailgating, having fun. It was two teams playing as hard as they can.

“I would change one thing, and I would beat those suckers next time, and then that would be it. That would say ok, that’s the program that I would like to have here.”

As a result, Arnold even deemed the loss acceptable for the program.

“The final score didn’t come out on our side, but we won tonight,” he said. “And I’m proud to be the guys’ coach. If we can continue to give effort like that, we’re going to be fine.”

Officially, though, it will go down as a loss. The Warriors dropped to 12-9 overall and 3-6 in the Western Athletic Conference.

Utah State, which is ranked No. 25 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, improved to 20-2 overall and 9-0 in the WAC. The Aggies swept the home-and-home series from Hawaii this season. However, Utah State’s two closest WAC victories this season have been against the Warriors.

“I feel tired, but more hurt that we didn’t win the game,” said Hawaii junior guard Zane Johnson said.

Johnson tied his career-best with a game-high 25 points, including 6-of-7 shooting from 3-point range. He played just six minutes in the first half after taking an inadvertent elbow from Utah State’s Tai Wesley.

Johnson was cleared to return to the game at halftime, and made several clutch shots in the second half and in both overtimes to keep the Warriors in it.

Senior forward Bill Amis added 15 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots for the Warriors.

But it was Ostrowski’s spirited play – along with 15 points, six assists and three steals – that had the crowd buzzing throughout.

“I just have so much fun out there,” he said. “I miss playing the game. I never was like that in high school – I never played defense, I just played offense. But coming on to the team I’m trying to help as much as possible. I’m just so happy to be playing, so when I’m on the court, I just have fun. That’s pure fun.”

Still, there was the unexpected death of his father, Kui, earlier in the week and the grieving and family obligations that come with it. However, Miah said there was never a doubt that he would play against Utah State.

“Playing in the game, it was simple for me,” Ostrowski said. “I knew that’s what my dad would have wanted. He put in too much time and effort into me growing up with the game. This is the biggest game of my life, against a ranked team. I knew he wouldn’t want me to pass that up, so I just went out there and played my heart out.”

Ostrowski, who shot 5 of 7 from the field and 5 of 8 on free throws, nearly made it a storybook finish. With the score tied at 73 in the closing seconds of the first overtime, Ostrowski shot a 3-pointer that bounced off the rim.

“I thought it was going in,” he said. “It was a rhythm shot. I knew (the defender) was trying to play the drive, so I just took a quality shot.”

Utah State took the lead for good with 31 seconds remaining in the second overtime at 83-81 on a jumper by Brockeith Pane. The Aggies then sealed it by going 6 for 6 from the free-throw line in the final 11 seconds. Meanwhile, Hawaii went 3 for 6 from the line during that span, as the Aggies chose to foul the Warriors rather than allowing 3-point shots.

All told, the game featured nine ties and 19 lead changes, and virtually all the key statistical categories were close (Utah State shot 45.2 percent to Hawaii’s 43.8; Utah State went 9 for 20 on 3-pointers to Hawaii’s 8 for 15; Utah State grabbed 38 rebounds to Hawaii’s 36).

Hawaii rallied from a 12-point deficit with 8:44 remaining in the second half, and took a 66-64 lead late in regulation on a 3-pointer by Bo Barnes.

Utah State’s Brian Green scored 22 points, including a jumper that tied the game at 66 in regulation and forced the first overtime, and then a 3-pointer that tied the game at 73 late in the first overtime.

“Tonight, Honolulu saw big-time college basketball,” Arnold said. “It was a big-time environment, two teams playing to the best they can possibly play. Kids playing, coaches coaching, fans cheering. Everybody was drained physically and emotionally at the end of the game.”

Photos by Brandon Flores. To view more photos and make purchases, please visit www.brandonfloresphotography.com

2 Comments

  1. Proud of the effort. But tired of moral victories, this game should have been won in regulation or in the first overtime.

    Not sure why Gib put Thompson in the final moments of the first overtime since his perimeter defense is lacking.

    Hope Ostrowski has earned a starting spot with his performance tonight.

  2. Soooo close is the word. But, I think they let this one get away. They had a chance to win it. Miah had a game to remember! Talk about spirited play…….it’s amazing what the mind can tell the body what to do. Now, let’s get the next one in the win column! Go Warriors!

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