Updated: Warriors stun No. 14 Xavier in overtime, 84-82
Joston Thomas scored a career-high 24 points — including the game-winning layup with 0.8 seconds remaining in overtime — Friday night as Hawai’i shocked No. 14-ranked Xavier, 84-82, in pulsating Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic action.
A raucous crowd of 6,836 at the Stan Sheriff Center watched the Warriors improve to 6-5 with their first victory over a ranked team since beating fourth-ranked Michigan State in 2005. They advance to Sunday’s 11:30 a.m. fifth-place game against Clemson (7-5).
“I can’t say enough about our guys,” said UH coach Gib Arnold. “It’s a great night for Rainbow basketball.”
Xavier’s Travis Taylor had tied the game at 82-82 by making the second of two free throws with 12.4 seconds left. After a kicking violation with six ticks remaining, Hawai’i got the ball to Zane Johnson, who penetrated the lane and dished to Thomas on the right side near the basket. Thomas’ lay-in circled around the rim before falling in.
The Musketeers’ Tu Holloway then heaved a three-quarter court shot at the horn, but it was well short.
“Zane came off (a screen) and drew attention, then he dumped it into me,” said Thomas, a 6-foot-7 junior forward. “Our team puts a lot of faith in each other, and I was glad I was able to come through. It was a good team win, we just have to keep it going from here.”
The Warriors had trailed 12-0 out of the gates and was behind for all but two seconds of regulation, when reserve forward Hauns Brereton drained a double-pump, 22-foot 3-point basket from the top of the key to make it 77-77. Brereton had to alter his shot after a defender jumped to block it.
“Whatever gets the job done,” said Brereton, a 6-6 junior. “Coach put me in (just before the last sequence) to have another option, and Miah set me up (with the assist).”
Xavier was still without freshman starter Dezmine Wells, a 6-5 swingman who is the team’s third-leading scorer at 9.5 points per game, from suspension after a brawl against Cincinnati on Dec. 10. But the Musketeers did feature their heralded backcourt of point guard Tu Holloway and shooting guard Mark Lyons, who lived up to their billing.
Arnold’s modified starting lineup included defensive specialists Garrett Jefferson and Bobby Miles, who were instructed to “lock down” on Holloway and Lyons in a triangle-and-2 scheme.
“Our game plan was to let someone besides them beat us,” Arnold said.
Freshman forward Justin Martin accepted that challenge, scoring the game’s first eight points on a short jumper and two 3-pointers. A layup by Lyons and Kenny Frease’s turnaround jumper made it 12-0 less than three minutes into the game.
UH finally broke through with Thomas’ two free throws at the 16:01 mark and eventually closed it to 22-16 on his three-point play midway through the first half, but the Musketeers responded with an 11-3 run capped by Holloway’s 3-pointer to make it 33-19 with 7:20 left. Another three-point play by Thomas got the Warriors as close as 38-30 with 3:13 remaining, but Xavier ended up leading 45-34 at the break.
Hawai’i was 0-for-5 from 3-point range in the first half and sank just 8 of 16 free throws in the first 20 minutes, but Thomas kept them in the game by tying his career high with 18 points by halftime.
“I’m the same person as before, but tonight they gave me open looks and I took them,” said Thomas, who entered the night averaging 9.2 ppg.
UH opened the second half with Miah Ostrowski’s steal and layup to cut it to 45-36, but the Musketeers responded with a 9-3 run to push the lead to 54-39 on Taylor’s putback with 17:21 left. It was 61-46 after a layup by Lyons with 13:53 showing, but the Warriors crept back into it and eventually closed to 70-69 on a layup by Johnson off Ostrowski’s nifty assist with 4:49 remaining. Frease, a husky 7-foot center, and Lyons each had picked up their fourth fouls at around the nine-minute mark and went to the bench.
Xavier went up, 75-71, when Holloway swished a 3 with 3:22 left, but Johnson answered with his own 3-pointer 12 seconds later to make it 75-74. It stayed that way until 20 seconds remaining, when Holloway hit a mid-range jumper that bounced up off the rim and dropped through for a 77-74 lead. After Johnson misfired from beyond the arc at the other end, Frease grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 11.3 ticks on the clock but he missed both free throw attempts.
That set up Brereton’s unlikely game-tying 3-pointer with two seconds left.
“I wish I could say I diagramed that play, but it was supposed to go the other way,” Arnold said. “But Hauns is a shot-maker, he hits those in practice all the time although he’s struggled a bit in games. He hit some big shots tonight.”
Andre Walker stepped across the baseline on the ensuing inbounds pass, giving Hawai’i possession. But the Warriors lost their inbounds pass with 0.1 ticks showing, and the Musketeers settled for overtime.
Vander Joaquim slammed home a dunk 31 seconds into the extra period to put UH up, 79-77, but Lyons answered at the other end with a sweet drive and finger roll. Frease fouled out at the 2:54 mark, and Ostrowski sank the second of two free throws to give Hawai’i an 80-79 edge. Trevor Wiseman then broke loose for a running slam dunk at 1:59 to make it 82-79, but Holloway closed it to 82-81 with two foul shots 51 seconds later.
After the Warriors turned it over with 41 seconds left, Taylor’s free throw tied it 29 seconds later, setting up Thomas’ dramatic finish.
“That’s a play where Zane takes the ball and we run a cross screen with Joston,” Arnold said. “Zane is supposed to run off him and do a ‘dribble-drag’ into the lane where he takes the shot, but the bigs came over and Joston got open. Zane was smart enough to see that, and Joston made a tough shot.”
Holloway, a dazzling 6-foot senior who was an Associated Press third-team All-American last season, finished with a game-high 26 points to go with six assists. Lyons added 18 points and Frease contributed 13 points and seven rebounds.
Holloway had 16 points at halftime but was held to 10 in the final 25 minutes.
“(Holloway and Lyons) got their points, but they had to earn it,” Arnold said. “They had somebody literally in their face all night, and I think when that happens, it wears you down.”
Joaquim finished with 20 points and seven rebounds. Johnson added 14 points, five assists and four rebounds, and also established a new UH record by converting his 28th and 29th consecutive free throws — a streak that covers seven games.
Brereton contributed with 13 points and five rebounds in 15 minutes off the bench. Ostrowski also came off the bench and scored five points with a game-high seven assists and five steals.
“We’re still trying to figure out who we are, but I’m seeing it in bits and pieces,” Arnold said. “Zane and Hauns hit big shots, Vander was a beast down low, Garrett and Bobby and Trevor gave us defense, Miah did his thing with the passing … This was our best team win, and I can say that easily. Everybody did their part, and if we can do that, we’ll be pretty good. This team has a high ceiling.”
Thomas, who added nine rebounds to go with his 24 points off the bench, said the Warriors are willing to aim higher.
“This win is big, but we’ve got bigger ones to take,” Thomas said. “We’ve got to go back again (Sunday) and be ready to play.”
(Photos courtesy Brandon Flores)
Kansas State 78, UTEP 70
Long Beach State 64, Auburn 43
Hawaii 84, Xavier 82 (OT)
Clemson 83, Southern Illinois 75 (OT)
9 a.m. — Xavier vs. Southern Illinois for seventh place
11:30 a.m. — Hawaii vs. Clemson for fifth place
2:30 p.m. — UTEP vs. Auburn for third place
4:30 p.m. — Kansas State vs. Long Beach State for championship