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UPDATED: Warriors suffer heartbreaking loss on Senior Night

A night normally reserved for heartwarming memories instead turned into heartbreak for the Hawai’i basketball team.

Utah State senior Morgan Grim scored on a spinning layup with seven seconds remaining to give the Aggies a 61-60 victory over the Warriors, spoiling “Senior Night” for Hawai’i starting guards Zane Johnson and Miah Ostrowski.

Grim’s decisive basket gave the Aggies their only lead of the second half. The Warriors did not call a timeout after that basket, and Ostrowski appeared to get pushed by a Utah State player as he stumbled and lost the ball while driving toward the Hawai’i basket as time expired.

A “Whiteout” crowd of 8,192 – the largest of the season – at the Stan Sheriff Center stood in stunned silence and confusion as the Aggies celebrated the victory.

“It comes down to one stop; it comes down to a couple free throws and one stop,” Hawai’i head coach Gib Arnold said. “It’s tough, it’s tough. But I’m proud of them. I told them in the locker room … I was proud to coach that team tonight.”

There appeared to be several questionable non-calls by the referees in the closing seconds: a possible charging foul on Grim as he made the spin-move for the go-ahead basket; a possible foul on Utah State’s Brockeith Pane that sent Ostrowski stumbling on the final possession; a possible traveling violation on Pane after he retrieved the loose ball; a game-clock error that stopped time momentarily in the closing seconds while the action was still in progress. The officials did not review any of those final plays.

“There was contact, there was definitely contact,” Arnold said of Hawai’i’s final possession. “I don’t know if it was enough for a foul. To draw that foul you usually have to get a shot up so I’m not blaming the referees at all.”

In any case, the Warriors completed the regular season with a five-game losing streak to fall to 15-15 overall and 6-8 in the Western Athletic Conference. Hawai’i will be the No. 6 seed for next week’s WAC Tournament at Las Vegas, and will face No. 3 seed Idaho in the quarterfinals.

Utah State improved to 17-14 overall and 8-6 in the WAC, including two victories over the Warriors.

Joston Thomas led the Warriors with 19 points and five rebounds. Ostrowski added 13 points and four assists, and Johnson – who needed intravenous fluids before the game due to flu-like symptoms – scored 10.

Leading scorer Vander Joaquim scored Hawai’i’s first basket of the game, but then did not score the rest of the way. He finished with season-lows for both points (two) and rebounds (four) and fouled out with 8:57 remaining. He was limited to 20 minutes due to foul problems.

The Warriors led by as many as nine points early in the second half before the Aggies rallied in the closing minutes.

Hawai’i held a 57-53 lead with 2:52 remaining. After that, the Aggies shot 4 for 5 from the field, while the Warriors did not make a field goal and went 3 of 6 from the free throw line.

Hawai’i went 15 of 24 on free throws, but Utah State was actually worse at 12 of 26. However, the Aggies out-rebounded the Warriors 37-27.

The score was tied at 59 when Thomas converted one of two free throws with 37 seconds remaining to give the Warriors a 60-59 lead. The Aggies then worked the clock down before Grim hit the game-winner.

Hawai’i had two timeouts remaining, but Arnold said the Warriors have practiced for that situation without calling a timeout.

“Anything under eight (seconds), you don’t want them to set up into their set defense,” Arnold said. “We’ve done it hundreds of times, and they did a great job (but) Miah got bumped and stumbled. If I would have called a timeout, I would have called the same play, but against a set defense.”

Ostrowski said: “I knew I had seven seconds. I just fell down. I lost the ball. Nothing you can do about it. I had more than enough time to make a play. It’s a tough loss.”

When asked if there was a foul on the play, Ostrowski responded: “That’s not my decision to say if it was or wasn’t. That’s what the refs get paid for. They made the call and there obviously wasn’t enough contact.”

Brockeith Pane led Utah State with 20 points, and Preston Medlin added 19.

The final outcome put a damper on the Senior Night festivities, but Johnson and Ostrowski received rousing standing ovations from the crowd.

“It’s been a rough year,” Johnson said. “We didn’t win unfortunately and it didn’t go the way we wanted it to, but at the end of the day, we have great fans and the fact that they stayed here and they showed up to support us after a four-game losing streak is great. Couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

(WarriorInsider.com photos by Brandon Flores)

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