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WAC season ends in heartbreak; post-season not over

Special to WarriorInsider.com

LAS VEGAS – In this city of heartbreak where fortunes can change in a flash, the University of Hawaii men’s basketball team felt the ultimate pain Wednesday after a stunning, last-second 75-74 loss to San Jose State.

The crushing defeat in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament opener left several hundred Warriors fans at the Orleans Arena staring in silent disbelief and the UH players and coaches searching for answers.

“This is not the way it was supposed to end, not with this team,” said Hawaii coach Gib Arnold, just minutes after Bill Amis’ potential game-winning tip-in at the buzzer was waved off following a replay review. “We played some real good basketball at the end of the year, it was a great year. We weren’t even expected to be here … But this hurts.”

The Warriors fell to 18-12 overall, but moments after the game it was announced that they will play host to Portland at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the first round of the fledgling CollegeInsider.com Tournament.

After Wednesday’s game, however, the wounds were still fresh from the defeat to San Jose State, whom UH had beaten twice in the regular season including just last Thursday in San Jose.

Victory looked promising again Wednesday, after Amis sank two free throws with 21 seconds remaining to put the Warriors up, 74-73. But after working down the clock, Spartans point guard Keith Shamburger got the ball to wing Adrian Oliver, who entered the game leading the WAC and third in the nation at 24.3 points per game.

Oliver drained an 18-foot jumper with five seconds remaining, and Hawaii elected to immediately push the ball up the floor via point guard Miah Ostrowski, who attempted a tough eight-foot baseline jumper from the left side over two defenders. The ball was partially blocked by Wil Carter and missed the rim, but Amis swooped in from the left side of the basket, caught the ball with his left hand and in one motion tipped in a shot that rolled around the rim twice before falling through.

Amis raced down the court in celebration, but the three officials convened at the scorer’s table to review a video replay for about 45 seconds. The basket was then waved off, sending Amis to the floor with hands on his head.

“It’s a horrible feeling, we worked hard all year …” said Amis, a senior forward who finished with a team-high 23 points to go with six rebounds. “It’s tough.”

In a way, it was also almost fitting that the final basket was made by Oliver, a dazzling 6-foot-4 senior guard who torched the Warriors with a game-high 29 points. Oliver was held to 10 points in a loss at Hawaii on Jan. 22 and scored 18 points in last week’s 77-71 home defeat to UH.

“That first game, I was coming off a head injury and had missed the two games before, so I don’t really count that,” Oliver said. “Last week I had a bad shooting night, but I still felt like I could attack the basket and get to the line, and that’s what I did today. The way Hawaii plays (defense), they face-guard me, but sometimes that’s better because it attracts defenders to me and gets our guys, our bigs, open. I was just picking my spots, seeing where I could score and also get my teammates involved.”

Arnold said early foul trouble – Zane Johnson and Trevor Wiseman each had three fouls in the first half — hampered plans to corral Oliver, who had 16 points in the first 20 minutes.

“That one kid had a heck of a night, he beat us,” Arnold said of Oliver. “He’s tough for us to guard, and we had some foul trouble early so we had to put guys on him who hadn’t guarded him all year. That was tough.”

San Jose State (16-14) came out of the gates quickly, jumping to leads of 6-0 and 11-4 in the first five minutes. The Warriors clawed back and finally tied it at 20-20 with eight minutes remaining in the first half and took their initial lead at 23-22 about 30 seconds later.

They built it to 42-35 after Bo Barnes’ 3-pointer with 49 seconds left, but the Spartans closed to 42-37 on Carter’s two free throws with 3.3 ticks remaining.

UH made 17 of 28 field goals (60.7 percent) in the first half but was just 6 of 14 (42.9 percent) at the free throw line and 2 of 7 (28.6 percent) from beyond the arc.

“It would have been nice to have a good cushion (at halftime), it would have given us some leeway with what we wanted to do defensively, but that’s part of the game,” Arnold said. “When you are given opportunities, you have to take them. We didn’t do that, and it’s too bad.”

The Warriors maintained the lead in the second half, going up 61-54 after two free throws by Joston Thomas with 9:25 remaining. But San Jose State crept back, eventually tying it at 65-65 on Oliver’s fadaway, 25-foot 3-pointer at the shot clock buzzer with 5:40 left.

The Spartans then took a 67-65 lead after Shamburger’s two free throws a minute later, and eventually went up, 73-68, on Justin Graham’s jumper with 1:54 remaining to cap a 19-7 run.

Amis cut it to 73-70 with two free throws 10 seconds later, and Johnson closed the gap to 73-72 on a fast-break reverse layup with 1:08 showing after a perfect lead pass from Ostrowski.

Amis then gave Hawaii the lead with 21 seconds left with two more free throws, setting up San Jose State’s final possession that led to Oliver’s shot from just inside the top of the key.

“The plan was to get me down on the flat and basically attack with about 10 or eight seconds to go and do what I do, put the ball in the hole,” Oliver said. “Luckily (they) bit on my crossover and I got a good look.”

Although Amis’ tip-in looked good in real time, a video from the CBS affiliate in Boise shows the red light on the backboard already lit as the ball was still in his hand.

Thomas added 16 points and six rebounds off the bench, Johnson finished with 14 points – although just 2 of 8 from beyond the arc – and Ostrowski contributed eight assists, eight rebounds and three steals with no turnovers in 40 minutes.

Carter had 15 points, Shamburger 12 points and Graham 11 points and seven rebounds for the Spartans.

—-

In the meantime, here is another episode of “Bill and Zane’s Excellent Adventure,” featuring clips from the team’s practice at Impact fitness center on Monday afternoon.

15 Comments

  1. Not sure if it exists, but we’re trying to hunt down video of the final play.

  2. We got ROBBED, !!, the ref called it good, then took it back, Portnoy was sure it went before the buzzer!! The refs have it in for us, good bye WAC! Can’t wait till we leave this God forsaken conference next year!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Too bad it ended up being a “bogus journey” for the guys. Can’t believe the ref went back on his initial call with no replay… but still an exciting season for the team.

  4. Kids played two crap games to end the regular season, what a disapointment!

  5. Disappointing and would like to see the video since the closest ref initially signaled the shot was good. But props to Adrian Oliver for clutch shots.

  6. i watched the game via wac.tv. the officials did review the tape for what seemed like such a short time…perhaps less than five minutes and concluded that it was no good.

    wac.tv did not show a replay of the final shot. it did appear to me that the tip was a nano second before the end game lights went on.

  7. not surprised that sjsu came out with 1 and 4 offense at the end. i guess i would have doubled up on oliver with johnson and miles and force him to take a longer shot or make him pass the ball to someone else.

    but, ah. what do i know?

  8. For those who plan to or want to attend next Tuesday’s game against Portland, the ticket information is now up on the home page of http://www.hawaiiathletics.com.

  9. TOUGH LOST! Was it not meant to be?!? On radio it sure sounded like the shot was made with time left. 🙁

  10. I watched the replay, both in real time and in slow-mo, and it was the correct call. Although in real time, it did look as if the shot was before the light came on.

    But on freeze-frame, you can see the light on and the ball still in Amis’ hand.

  11. That’s a heartbreaker, and not the way anyone’s season should end. Take heart, though, Hawaii. This season looks to be the start of something special. This is the best basketball I’ve seen them play in some time. You’ve got one heck of a coach, and a good group of players. Give them some time and they’ll be as good as Utah State.

  12. how many actually thought that we’d get this far?

    like aggie86 said this could be the start of something…
    i am glad that this team brought many of us back as good fans. i admit that while over the course of many seasons dating back to fab5 days i have always been a loyal fan, however, last year i did miss many a game out of disinterest.

    this season rekindled my passion for all things manoa. better days ahead with good looking recruits coming in each year. i also remind myself that our head coach is still learning what it takes to run, manage, recruit to, and coach a d1 program. but, there is light at the end of the tunnel and he too will improve with each game and season.

    so finally, yeah, jd better start sharpening the pencil about now and do what ever it takes to keep the gibber home for awhile. maybe the punahou connection will offer some tuition waivers/grants for the gibber’s five (kid’s that is) just as an added incentive.

    …nuff said.

  13. Hey I am also trying 2 track that video down as well but if u get it can u put it on there & The Heck with the Wac that is why it’s Called……> WEAK.>ASS.>CONFRENCE.. They just didn’t want us 2 face Utah State & thanks 4 all the great memories @ practice & hopefully c ya around in Utah or ohe oakland….& i Also was Blessed 2 be a part of this team & from the 1st game against Chaminade till the Outrigger Hotel Champs, then 2 the Diamond Head Classic & our 1st jam packed Stan Sheriff Center against a team that Gave then #1 Duke Blue Devils there 1st Loss of the season, 2 our 1st Rd win @ La Tech then many more after that,,, i do give the great Coaching staff a Awesome job cuz no 1 in the Wac thought we would get this Far,,, & this is bitter esp 4 me cuz i wanted 2 join them & was suppose 2 Leave Utah wed night,,,, Good Luck against Portland & win this CIT cuz the N.I.T. Lose Money on not taking us in the NIT… As Zane & Bill Said the Hardest Working Mgr !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. I’m with aggie86 and al. I’m absolutely heartbroken over the early loss, but going into this season I would have thought that we’d miss the tournament altogether. They’ve played great, Miah got to be a hometown hero, and I actually have hope for the team for the first time in a long while. I hate that they got bounced first round, but I’m still proud to be a fan.

    Plus, now we still get to play in the post-season*.

  15. they showed the replay in freeze frame today during the espnu broadcast of the sjsu-idaho game. the ball was still in amis’ fingertips after the time expired. a mere 0.01 second stood between a climatic win and rejection.

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