Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

UPDATED: Warriors lose heartbreaker to Illini at OT buzzer

The Hawai’i basketball team hit one buzzer-beater, but Illinois countered with one of its own. Unfortunately for the Warriors, the Fighting Illini’s buzzer-beater was worth more.

D.J. Richardson drained a 3-pointer from the corner at the final buzzer of overtime to give Illinois a thrilling 78-77 victory over the Warriors on Friday night. Moments earlier, Vander Joaquim hit a tough 15-foot jumper from the wing at the final buzzer of regulation to force the overtime.

A “Wig Night” crowd of 7,550 at the Stan Sheriff Center was in high-decibel form throughout the game, but they left in stunned silence after a video replay of the Illini’s final shot was reviewed and ruled good by the game officials.

“In my short time here, that’s as good an effort from a team that I’ve seen for an entire game,” said Hawai’i head coach Gib Arnold, who is in his third season. “I’m extremely proud of the effort, and I got nothing but good things to say about how hard they played and how hard they tried. Usually that’s all you control is effort. Winning sometimes is a matter of 0.2 seconds.”

Hawai’i dropped to 3-1, and is now 0-7 all-time against Illinois. The Illini improved to 3-0.

The Warriors led by as many as 16 points early in the second half, and by as many as five in overtime, but the Illini kept coming back with clutch 3-point shooting. “It was painful” Joaquim said. “The mistakes that we made really hurt us in the end.”

Joaquim led the Warriors with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Junior guard Brandon Spearman, who was raised in Chicago and watched Illinois games as a child, contributed 20 points and nine rebounds while playing 44 minutes.

“It was always a dream to play Illinois and beat them,” Spearman said. “It’s alright, sometimes dreams don’t come true.”

Christian Standhardinger added 12 points, although he shot 4 of 15 from the field. Hauns Brereton contributed 10 points and nine rebounds, although he shot 3 of 11 from the field.

The Warriors had possession of the ball and a 76-75 lead in the closing seconds when point guard Jace Tavita was fouled with 7.5 seconds remaining. He missed the first free throw but made the second to give Hawai’i a 77-75 advantage. On Illinois’ final possession, point guard Tracy Abrams drove toward the baseline, drawing the Hawai’i defense in, and then fired a pass to an open Richardson in the corner for the game-winning shot.

“It was good D, it was better O,” Arnold said. “I thought the kid (Abrams) made a nice play. I thought we had him pinned along the baseline below the basket.”

The heartbreaking loss overshadowed heart-felt performances by Spearman and Joaquim. Spearman came up with numerous clutch plays against a team that features many of his basketball acquaintances from Illinois. His put-back dunk gave the Warriors a seemingly solid 54-47 lead with 9:50 remaining.

“This one was special to him,” Arnold said of Spearman’s performance. “I thought he played like a warrior and I’m glad he’s with us and I bet they probably want him with them. He was the best player on the floor at times, I thought.”

When the Illini rallied late in the game, Joaquim was Hawai’i’s response. On the final play of regulation, he took an inbounds pass from Jace Tavita and dribbled to the wing and drained the game-tying shot with a defender in his face.

“It was supposed to go for anybody” he said. “I was open and Jace got me the ball and I just made a play.”

The Warriors led by as many as 15 points in the first half and eventually took a 41-28 lead at intermission. Spearman hit a 3-pointer to open the second half and push the lead to 44-28, but the Illini fought back and eventually caught the Warriors.

The Illini took a 61-60 lead on a driving layup by Abrams with 2:59 remaining. It was the first time the entire game that Hawai’i had surrendered the lead.

The lead went back-and-forth after that, with Illinois seizing the late momentum on a 3-pointer by Brandon Paul with 1:29 remaining to give the Illini a 66-64 advantage.

The Warriors had the final possession of regulation, and Spearman was fouled but missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw. Standhardinger grabbed the rebound and his putback attempt was blocked out of bounds. On the ensuing inbounds play, Joaquim took the inbounds pass from Tavita and hit the shot that tied it at 66-all.

“It won’t be the last time we’ll be in a tight game,” Arnold said. “I hope next time we make that one last play to win it. I think this team will. I think this is a team that will just get better.”

The Warriors out-rebounded the Illini, 51-31. However, Illinois stayed in it by hitting 11 of 31 from 3-point range. The Warriors did not help their cause by shooting 17 of 31 (54.8 percent) from the free-throw line.

“We’re a team. Everyody contributes on the team,” Joaquim said. “Everybody played hard, everybody played with their hearts. It was just one stop; one stop to get us the win. That’s basketball, somebody has to win.”

Illinois was led by Brandon Paul’s 25 points, including 5-of-10 shooting from 3-point range. Abrams added 22 points and Richardson finished with 16. The Illini stopped in Honolulu to play this game before heading to the three-game Maui Invitational next week.

Hawai’i will play another home game on Tuesday, when it hosts North Dakota at 7 p.m. at the Sheriff Center.

(Game photos by Charles Simmons)




  1. You could feel the emotions all over again by watching this video. The team played their hearts out tonight. Illinois just hit some difficult shots there at the end of the game. Some of those shots were extremely deep and clutch. Nothing to be ashamed of. Hope the team just learns from this, makes steady improvements, and gets the next big game.

  2. We all just had a glimpse of how good this UH team can play. When they’re executing, they can play with almost anybody. What they did in the 1st half was beyond anything I was expecting this team to show at this stage of the season. I think UH is way ahead of schedule as far progress with the team.

    Looks like Gib has already pretty much set his rotation, something I didn’t think would happen until December. Looks like 7 guys will be carrying the minutes and an 8th will be mixed in as needed. I’m sure Gib will still tinker with the subs, but looks like it’ll be Vander, Stanghardiger, Brereton, Spearman, Tavita, with Fotu, Jefferson, Clair off the bench. Rozitis will only play during foul trouble.

    We all also saw the importance of making your free throws. Just at the end of OT, if Tavita hits both, then it would have been 2OT at worst. UH was (3-6 FT) in OT, and only shot 54.8% for the game. That won’t win many close games.

    What UH can take out of this close loss:
    1. They can play with just about anybody
    2 Their weaknesses got exposed, but now have game film of what they need to work on
    3. Got valuable experience in tough, close games while trying to hang onto a lead.
    4. Learned that you can’t relax with a big lead and expect the other team to make a run at you.

    Tough Loss but this game should really help the team for conference play, when I’m sure there will be several close games. It’s just a matter winning a close game and build the confidence they can finish.

  3. I hope Gib gives more playing time to Roop and Ozi. They may make mistakes now but if they develop confidence on the court they could help big time when it really matters, Big West games.

  4. Yeah, Clair should be getting some more minutes as the season progresses. Oz has looked pretty green in the minutes he’s played, so he may not get much PT unless he really steps is up in practice.

    UH’s Achilles heel this year is turnovers and FT shooting. Both got exposed vs Illinois.

    UH’s size and rebounding will offset some of the turnovers, but it’s the sloppy turnovers that hurt. Free throws goes without saying. UH shot horrible from the stripe and it cost them the game.

    Good news is that there are enough scorers to absorb a really bad night from Brereton. UH is also good enough to score on just about anybody. Not sure exactly what happened with the defense down the stretch, but Illinois flat out caught fire in the last 5 minutes of regulation. I think they hit 6 straight shots in crunch time to tighten the game and take the lead.

  5. What a heartbreaking loss…thought we had this one for sure. And we would have if not for sub-par free throw shooting. I couldn’t believe how many clankers we threw up last night. Credit the Illini for shooting lights out in the second half. Didn’t help that we couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn for the last 15 mins or so. Looking forward to Tuesday night’s game, just gotta bounce back and keep on truckin!

  6. Great effort by the Warriors last nite – especially by Spearman & Joaquim! Keep your heads up high and continue to work on improving weak areas (free throws, cutting down on turnovers, stopping the penetration into the paint, etc.) and the wins will come. Credit the Illinois guards for their clutch 3-point shooting, especially Brandon Paul’s deep 3’s with the defender right in his face!

  7. Isn’t the end game different, and shouldn’t Gib spend perhaps half of the game strategy teaching on the end game. The mind-set of the team should be different and the coaching should be different, I would think. Just asking. One aspect is that too much substitution at the end of the game seems to defeat the mind-set of the players owning the moment. Substitutions during the game allow players to rest and perhaps be fresher at the end of the games and also allows players to develop. But at the end of the game, generally, there should be fewer substitutions. If their is truly a disparaging difference in the talent of the players from offense to defense, it is more understandable. But with just a slight difference in talent, it seems more of a disturbance. There is all kinds of downside to too much substituting and particularly to the mind-set and ownership of the game. The mind-set aspect of the players ownership of the game, if done right, does not take away from the the coach’s control, but adds to it. The specialization of players is good on paper, but all the imperfections of the individual players multiply at the end of games, when it counts. You can say it is a gray area, but the fact is if you go in with a mind-set that it is either “out of my hands” or “in my hands” makes a difference to the players on the court, over a game, and over a season.

  8. Hey im an Illini fan and Hawaii is a very tuff team and they have nothing to be ashamed of, I believe that Illini team and Hawaii team are pretty underrated teams… “Dont be supprised come March!!!”

  9. Great game wish the ending was different. I love the warriors they will have my support through the whole season.

  10. Illini Fan(s)…we’ll be watching how well Illinois handles the Maui ‘hood..

    Your Comment reminds me of a Tough Early-Season Arkansas-Hawai’i game…
    Both teams subsequently put a lot of Hurt on a lot of other teams and
    agreed that the early-season match-up was the toughest all year…

    Groce &Gib’s got their teams playin’ early-season well
    How Well ?
    Between Maui and ND/UNLV we’ll see…

    THAT Game was an impressive display of effort and competitiveness —
    players stopping each other from doing what they usually do easily…
    and still doing more than they usually even attempt…
    because it was necessary to stay in the game…

  11. Yo Si. I feel the same for your team. College is a guard centered game, you guys have got three great perimeter players. Hate you guys for beating our Warriors, but best of luck to you and Illinois. Hopefully UH and Illinois can play in the big dance once again this year. Hometown Illinois product Brandon Spearman was intent on showing Illinois up. I feel for the guy, but he was balls out last night.

  12. GET JACE TAVITA OFF THIS TEAM!!!! HE cant score, dribble, or pass. He sure can foul and miss freebies though.

  13. BTW the rest of the guys awesome game

  14. Willy take a hike, Jace is a walk on, and doing his best, it’s not his fault the coach put him in at the end ( should never happen in a close game) and that Spearman passed him the ball with 8 seconds left, instead of keeping it himself and letting Illinois foul him.

  15. I give UH MBB credit, and coach Gib and staff, and the fans at SSC…to be playing at that level(like last year’s Xavier game)…is something noteworthy! Yes, team weaknesses exposed, FT shooting, turnovers at crucial times..however, if UH can keep on improving, and protecting their house(SSC)..they would have a shot at winning the DH classic, and BWC, lock down defense, and killer Bigs…with steadier and good guard play at both SG and PG, …Hawaii can go post season tourney..

    Been fan for over 4 decades, have never seen, a UH team with really good bigs..yet PG has to be able to protect ball and hit free throws, Jace .for a preferred walkon…paying own way with huge help from his ohana, what can you say? He is not on full ride scholarship, yet is one of the nation’s leaders in assists..Hope Clair, and Spearman, Jefferson, Hauns, Ozi, can help with ball handling and calling out to Jace when, quick guards ready to strip him from behind…Gib has a lot to work with,…this team will win their share of games, even close ones..

    Brandon Spearman, from game one till now..very, very impressive..now whole team has to work on weaknesses. and fight..they are going to be alright..

    And Illinois fan, thank you for the commendation on UH MBB team play and effort..I think warriors, are one of the top teams in the BWC..

    Keep your heads up, UH MBB team..keep on fighting and getting better..keep chasing championships!!

  16. This was a good game I hope that our guys can learn something from this. It did seem like we were playing not to loose in the second half as compared to playing to win! As for the last substitution when jace made the free throw was so the defense had a chance to set itself. 100% agree with that strategy! Illinois defense was very good would like to see how they do in the Maui! Good luck to them. I wish we could have a crowd like that every night!

  17. i’m glad we’re not like Illinois this year. How many years did we live and die by the three. We had no other game. We have an inside game this year, as well as a nice group of guards. They hounded Hauns last night as they were the more athletic guard group. He will probably see that the rest of the year however as everyone knows he’s a threat. Once Manroop gets more comfortable, he’ll be able to be a threat from the outside as well.
    My friends and I were talking, imagine if we had last year’s team. We wouldn’t have even been close last night, and last week’s 3 games would’ve been rough too. Only seeing bright things in the future.

  18. Lots of positives in this tough loss. I love the comments from Coach Gib in this mornings’ paper that the team was “MAD”…..Looking to be an interesting season especially since our football team has had a down year…..GO ‘BOWS !!!!!

  19. to all talking about clair scoring on the duke commit?….now u see that meant nothing although gib should be giving him minutes early in the season to get him into game speed

  20. IT Means A Lot…and they ALL need to get up to game speed….

    Once Roop gets ALL the Baseline Teaching Down…

    After Players CAN Run “The System”

    Then they can weave their skills into the system…

    That’s when the individual skills really matter…

    Spearman is an advanced, really fast learner…
    Christian has studied and practiced for a year….
    So has Hauns …
    and we can see even with previous D-1 experience, they’re still struggling… (But pretty good)
    The Illini Senior Guards have been STARTING since their freshman year…
    Jace & Jawato have also had a year…
    Spearman, Christian, Jace, Fotu, Ozi & Roop just completed their first “week” as players..

    The Improvement from Week One to Two should be interesting .
    By the Time the ‘whole system’ is taught…

  21. Our team got all the tools to put it together. Turnovers can be cut down and free throws can be improved. Other than that our offense and defense is pretty effective. Just need a bit more tweaking.

    Think about it. We almost won when our outside shooting sucked. Almost won when our free throw shooting cost us at least 10 points. Almost won when we turned the ball over way too many times. Almost won riding the backs of Vander and Brandon for the most part. Vander and Brandon brought their A game. The rest brought their B and C games. Just think what the impact would be when all are at game speed and playing super. We will have these games but tonight was not it. I would say at times we were clicking on half cylinders as far as our offensive capabilities. The first half we did play super on offense and defense. But the second half was very sporadic and that allowed Illinois to creep back in the game. Turnovers especially are momentum killers and has a greater overall impact on the game than free throws.

    You know when Clair comes into the game he is immediately a trap target because coaches know he is a freshman and they will press the opponent’s weakness. They will not treat him with respect and will be all over him trying to disrupt his game. But it’s good medicine for Clair. He needs to keep his composure and not get flustered. And his teammates need to help him and try to be open to receive the ball. Practice makes perfect.

  22. Shocking, shocking! Reading D. Reardon’s article I was shocked to learn that in 3 seasons (2 at Utah, and 4 games at UH) Jace Tavita is shooting around 40%, for his career. This year he is 1-7 at the line. The assists are good, but his turnovers are not good. Field goal shooting ain’t good either. My point, when you get to crunch time in close games the point guard with the ball will get fouled. You gotta knock em down. If you can’t you are hurting the team. If I was a coach, you can’t have this happen. Credit Illinois, they made some big shots from 3 pt. land. Man, they can shoot. Paul, Abrams, Richardson, all of them, in the clutch. And remember, the Illinois coach Groce
    came from University of Ohio where he took the team to the NCAA tournament last year. He’s a damn good coach. But, still, we should have won this game. It still stings.

    Give Clair more PT. He’s gotta learn under fire. Better to experiment in the non conference schedule. Or move Spearman to the point. He can handle pretty well. Clair is a natural SG and he can score. I hope Arnold will not be as stubborn as Chow, before it is too late.

  23. Dayton, please remove Willy from being able to post. His name is inappropriate and his comments are a joke.

  24. I hope Gib is watching the Duke game on ESPNU this afternoon. There is a 5 star recruit, freshman Rasheed Sulaimon from Duke who looks pretty good and getting lots of time. This is the same Sulaimon that Manroop Clair torched for 26 points last year in an AAU game. This is the same Sulaimon that Manroop trash talked him by saying after he made a shot “And you’re going to Duke! If you can’t guard a guy like me, maybe you should go to community college.” If you don’t believe me there are lots of mention on the internet and on you tube.

    Arnold, let the kid play and get the needed experience and his confidence. He will pay dividends before too long. And I believe you will trust him in crunch time as he makes shots. But you have to teach him and you have to make sure you have his back, no matter what. If you do, he will play hard and well for you for 4 years. He can help us get to the dance.

  25. Coach is gonna work Clair in slowly and now that Vander’s back the team teachings should have been advanced by quite a bit.

  26. I agree Derek, play roop and Ozi now, it will pay off in the long run.

  27. AGREE — Play Manroop and Ozi –they were “Under-Recruited” TALENTS — i really think Gib just got there first; figured out that Roop could graduate/qualify @ 17 versus next year so really did his homework; convinced Ozi that College Plus Pros is way better than Pros alone right out of prep school (How many years can you play ? Then How Long before you join the Ranks of the Bankrupt Former Pros without a College Degree and Follow-on Career?)

    BUT Don’t Need to Rush ‘Em — Allow Them to/Ensure They Experience SUCCESS — the Team Is Not Barren of Talent — we don’t need Our Freshmen to ‘Learn the Hard Way’ (through Losing)..

    Get a Professional Sports Psychologist IF the free throw shooting ‘problem’ has been so far unsolvable in three/four years, especially for a guy who has demonstrated he can hit harder shots like multiple game threes…

  28. Really as a TEAM , UH lost that Illinois game..however , agree, and at this moment, Gib is probably working on PT for Manroop and Ozi…now against North Dakota, and at UNLV, ..bet a lot time for Roop, and Ozi ..too, one thing Gib wants, ..and sad to say Jace did it as well, despite 7 assists, turned over the ball, or the young guys were a little lost..

    However, with 10 or 15 min. here and there, key time to spell Jace..Manroop will play, I just know it..that is why Gib did not Redshirt Roop, he needs him…and Roop has to step up with DI defense, and play strong..Roop , as well as Ozi have to continue to work with strength coach and his weights, and eat good meals, to add muscle..that is the key, Roop and Ozi have major talent, however, very young and still not as strong as Jace , Spearman or Jefferson.

    I think at this point(pun intended)..Gib has to go to Plan B for point guard, position..yes, use Roop at PG or slide Spearman to PG and Roop at SG…

    Either way, I agree, Roop and Ozi if they work their butts off, WILL be ready by BWC time..this team, they are winners, and hard workers..not prima donnas, or ego trippers..TEAM and WIN as a TEAM first..they are going to get it done…

    Go Rainbow Warriors!

  29. In fairness to Jace…that young man is a good student athlete, …mature and a leader..one of the nation’s leaders in per game assists…With all of the talk of moving Spearman to PG or Clair..If Jace can be a 7,7, 70, 3 guy…7pts. 7 assists, 70% FT shooter and 3 turnover or less per game PG…and average 30 min a game with solid D , with help with quick guards…he will be alright, with Manroop backing him up…

    So , shout out to Jace, if you can make yourself a threat at taking to rim, or posting up the smaller guards, and producing at least 7 or 8 pts a game, 3 turnovers or less…and most importantly , in fact for whole team, not just Jace , hit 70% or better, since your team is going to get fouled at lot this year…You will be a solid PG..hey, with Jace playing the point, UH MBB team was 1 tenth of a second , if the Illinois guard misses that 3, from being 4-0 with a signature win!

    Jace, you are great competitor, have to work on offense, taking care of ball, and most importantly hitiing majority of FT’s , and that goes for all 12 players..

    Then UH MBB, will win a bunch of close games, and have a lot of big wins!!

    Still early fans..team has a high ceiling, effort, is there, and no pouting..and grandstanding..ego guys..this is a TEAM..and they will be okay!!

  30. It’s a good thing the season is still early so the team can work on the weaknesses like free throw shooting and taking care of the ball. I think shooting free throws is almost like sinking a 6 feet putt for a par. You gotta imagine it and believe you can do it (ala Tiger Woods). Did somebody say it’s the easiest shot in basketball?!?
    Show your stuff tomorrow night!:)

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