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UPDATED: Warriors fight past UC Santa Barbara, 70-66

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Providing both fire and ice, Jace Tavita scored a career-high 17 points — including five 3-pointers — to go with five assists, and Vander Joaquim added 16 points and nine rebounds Thursday night as Hawai’i fought past visiting UC Santa Barbara, 70-66, in crucial Big West Conference men’s basketball action.

An energized crowd of 5,722 at the Stan Sheriff Center watched the Warriors improve to 17-11 overall, 10-6 in the Big West. Hawai’i is in third place – a half-game behind second-place Pacific – in the conference with two regular-season games remaining. The Gauchos fell to 8-19, 4-11.

UH’s third senior, Hauns Brereton, contributed 14 points and four rebounds. The trio finished a combined 14 of 15 (93 percent) from the free throw line, including 10 straight in the final 1:03 as the Warriors clung to a narrow lead.

“First of all, I want to thank our seniors for helping us get a big win,” UH coach Gib Arnold said. “Jace in particular … talk about a guy who just wouldn’t let us lose. When we were struggling, he hit some big, big shots. They all made some tough, gritty plays at the end, and the seniors showed their leadership. It was a grind-it-out game that you gotta finish, and that’s how the Big West Tournament is going to be.”

The Warriors led, 40-34, after Christian Standhardinger’s short turnaround banker three minutes into the second half, but T.J. Taylor answered with his second straight 3-pointer to start UCSB on a 17-3 run capped by Alan Williams’ 15-foot turnaround jumper that put the Gauchos ahead, 51-43, with 8:40 remaining in the game.

But Tavita — whose previous career-high was nine points — drained a 3-pointer 35 seconds later to ignite Hawai’i on a 15-6 surge capped by Isaac Fotu’s two free throws to put the Warriors back in front, 58-57, with 2:32 remaining.

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Hawai’i eventually went up, 64-59, on a pair of free throws by Brereton with 41 seconds left, but Michael Bryson swished a deep 3 and Kyle Boswell — who finished with a game-high 27 points — sank three free throws with 13 ticks remaining to close it to 66-65.

Joaquim then swished two more free throws to make it 68-65 five seconds later, and grabbed the rebound and was fouled after Taylor missed the second of two free throws on purpose (after making the first) with 0:04.8 showing on the clock. Joaquim then sealed it with two free throws one second later.

“That’s a tribute to their mental toughness,” Arnold said of his team’s clutch play and free throw shooting down the stretch. “The game could have easily slipped away (when UCSB took a 51-43 lead), and maybe earlier in the season, it would have. But we made some adjustments on defense and stuck with the game plan and said, ‘We’re gonna be OK.’ ”

Brandon Jawato’s off-balanced 3-pointer with 55 seconds remaining before halftime put the Warriors up, 30-28, after a back-and-forth first 20 minutes.

Williams, a powerful post player who sat out Hawai’i’s road victory at Santa Barbara on Jan. 26 due to injury, scored five points and grabbed seven boards in the first half while limiting Joaquim to four points and four rebounds.

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“It was a good challenge, he’s a good player and we were out there competing,” said Joaquim. “We didn’t play well on offense, except for Jace, and I wanted to be aggressive and help the team. But we knew if we just stick with our defense, good things would happen in the end.”

Ironically, the player who kept the Warriors in it was Tavita, a point guard who entered the night averaging just 2.8 points per game. He finished 5 for 6 from 3-point range and hit his only two free throw attempts since an overtime loss to Illinois on Nov. 16.

Tavita said he took advantage of the Gauchos sagging in on UH’s formidable front line, leaving him plenty of shooting space on the perimeter.

“The last couple teams we played were doing that,” Tavita said. “I’ve been working on my shot, and I wanted to be aggressive and knock some down to keep people honest.”

On the other end, it was Kyle Boswell — a 6-foot-2 shooting guard — who kept UCSB in it with his game-high 27 points, including 5 of 8 marksmanship from beyond the arc. He also sank 10 of 12 free throws.

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“He got us up in the air and needed only six inches of distance to get his shot off,” Arnold said. “He’s a heck of a player, and when he gets going like that he’s as good as anyone in the country.”

Williams finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots. UCSB has lost nine of their last 10 games including two against the Warriors.

“That was a pretty darn good effort,” said UCSB head coach Bob Williams. “We really brought it tonight. Kyle was really good, he kept us going at times when it looked like they might put the game away. At one point he was 5-for-5 from threes and was just outstanding. We never quit in this one and it was a very encouraging game.”

The Warriors finished 24 of 30 (80 percent) from the free throw line, including 20 of 23 in the second half. Hawai’i closed the game by making 15 consecutive free throws in the final 14:14 of the game

Standhardinger, the Warriors’ leading scorer and rebounder entering the game, finished with eight points and seven rebounds.

Hawai’i wraps up its home schedule at 7:30 p.m. Saturday vs. Cal Poly (14-12, 9-6). The doubleheader with Wahine basketball has been deemed a “White-Out,” with all Warriors fans encouraged to wear white.

(Game photos courtesy Charles Simmons)

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10 Comments

  1. Nice to have a lot of fans at final senior night game against Cal Poly! The Maniacs Rock the Stan Sheriff Center! Should be awesome game! Come on out, if you can . More Students, hopefully we break record attendance, and all fans of the UH hoopsters! Good season so far, roller coaster ride, however now approach finish line!

    Get a Win, actually 5 more in a row would be awesome! UH team!

  2. Obviously our Ohana(family) loves the Green and White! Warriors, or old school Rainbows, or Bows! Good recruiting great young student athletes Gib and staff. Fine young adults in Michael Harper, Dyrbe Enos and Jace Tavita, who had great sacrifice , are working hard in school and on the court, with help of great support from their families.

    We hope the whole global Warrior MBB nation will tune in to watch the team get win number 18 on Saturday night. Cal Poly is playing very well, so UH will have to play better. Whether the win is by 1 point or 21 points, just work hard, listen to coach, stay together, have fun, and on to victory, then shoot for a win on road against Northridge next week guys!

    Thanks and Mahalo once again Dayton, Mr. MBB Insider! Hopefully UH has a nice run deep into the end of March this year, truly March Madness, in a good way!

    Aloha and Mahalo Warrior Insider( and special thanks to the Schmidts and all contributors and fans of this site!!)

    UHF and playhoopsa.

  3. I think I was proved right. The difference was the play of UHs guards. In particular, Jace Tavita’s career night of 17 points, 5 for 6 from 3 pts. line and 2 for 2 from the line. I was telling myself at the game, am I dreaming! That was unreal. Without Tavita’s hot hand we don’t win this game, period.
    Actually, I thought it would be a collective effort by the guards, but Tavita played 37 minutes and he was an iron man. He wa so open and to his credit, he knocked them down from downtown. Now, people will be more wary of him and the middle will open a little more. That should help the big men get more room to roam the paint.

    Time to move on to Cal-Poly. It’s payback time. I think Arnold made a good move to put Standhardinger to guard a guard. He is quick and has a long reach to contest shots. Arnold should play Jefferson and Clair more to keep Jawato, Hauns, and Tavita fresh legs. Guys coming in should be pests, playing hard like a maniac and causing havoc. When they get tired, sub out and bring fresh bodies in and do the same thing. By going uptempo the idea is to cause the other teams to get out of their rhythm and create turnovers. Just a suggestion. We have enough bodies, right? Use our personnel.

  4. How huge were the seniors in this one?? Especially Jace, he was my hero last night. Stepping up and knocking down all those 3’s, each one more and more critical, then topping it off with the free throws? Talk about redemption (for the Illinois loss). Although Hauns and Vander didn’t have the best shooting night, they were clutch with their free throws. I love how they were shooting with confidence, and would like to see them continue to each put up 10+ shots a night.

    Seems as though our Warriors are ready to take on Cal Poly on Sat night. Lots of momentum winning 7 of the last 9 (shall we dare make it 8 out of last 10??) including 4 straight at home. Should be a good one. Let’s go BOWS!!

  5. I’m very wary of Cal-Poly. They beat us by 29 at their house. It’s called a butt whipping. They beat UCLA by 2 at UCLA. They beat Northridge at Northridge yesterday by 20. This is a good team. I can see us losing tomorrow. If we win, it might come down to another buzzer beater. We still need to defend the 3 pt. line better. Santa Barbara killed us on that making 12 last night. Somehow, other teams really like our friendly rims. Maybe we need more noise!!!! I hope we get a big crowd for tomorrow night. If we play like last night I don’t think we can win. Poly is lot better than Santa Barbara.

  6. I’m also wary about Cal Poly. They shot 80% from beyond the arc last night @ Northridge and blew them out by 20. It’s pretty amazing that they shot that well on the road from outside. They’re a tough matchup, because their guards and bigs can fill up the net from deep. They’ve also rebounded very well against us the last time. I’m hoping the team plays smarter basketball and is inspired on the defensive end.

  7. Earlier in the season I had my doubts about Jace. But I’m glad that he proved to me and others that he is turning out to be a pretty good point, especially when he can knock down those wide open spot up shots. If Jace continues to knock’em down this Saturday come tournament time the opposing teams will not leave him so wide open. That paves the way for our inside play, particularly from Vander. I also noticed during the game that many times when Vander has the ball in the post there is no one to kick out to. Everyone is on the weak side. Don’t make any sense. Ain’t no way Vander is going to pass behind his back (or when he puts the ball on the floor he is going to the hoop). Luckily Jace came over from the top of the key and Vander was able to get it to him. But would seem ideal if Jawato or Brereton could slide to the corner when Vander got the ball in case he needs to kick it back out.

  8. DK, Derek, Isaac and servante, excellent observations. I kind of noticed throughout year, Jace, is a bigger, taller version of Miah , in some respects, runs Gib’s offense, would rather get assist rather than take a shot or build up stats.

    However, coaches, Gib and everyone, even Fotu said on post game radio show, that Jace should drive to rim more, it would create, possible 2 point layin, 2 pt , plus one, or draw defenders, and dish to Bigs for layups or flush, the Bigs can finish off of those passes. Correct too, BWC knows, just pack it in, basically 5 guys, tying up Vander, Christian and Fotu, and UH offense comes to a halt.

    However, Jace, big, big time, and the guy can shoot the 3. Now, if he adds the occasional drive to the paint and kick, score, or dish, along with his very, very good 3 ball shooting, well, we have a VERY GOOD and solid point guard that can help UH, win a BWC tournament title. One thing about this year’s team, different than any Riley, Nash, team? 11 out of 12 of the roster players have hit at least one trey, never seen that before.!

    Great Job Jace, he is big time, in leading UH to 7 wins out of the last 9 , and I echo your statements, hopefully, and am sure Gib is coaching them up, and Fish and assitants, will have UH battle from tip off till final buzzer to get a big 18th win of season, and go to 11-7 BWC play before Northridge.

    Hope, at least 7000+ will come out, and the Maniacs, will go 700, 800 or 900+ in attendance.! Should be a great game. No fear guys, as jjay says , protect the house, don’t let Poly rock and roll on senior nite. Get the victory, you guys give effort, play smart, and battle, play to win!

  9. Sorry fans, I meant , get the 18th win of season against Poly and go to 11-6 before final road game against Northridge. Hope for an awesome final home crowd at 7:35 pm HST at the SSC after Beeman’s girls play!

    Great Job Jace, he is big time, in leading UH to 7 wins out of the last 9 , and I echo your statements, hopefully, and am sure Gib is coaching them up, and Fish and assitants, will have UH battle from tip off till final buzzer to get a big 18th win of season, and go to 11-6 BWC play before Northridge.

    D: !!

  10. We will be cheering from Down Under to all the seniors – Jace, Hauns and Vander. I am sure it will be an emotional night for them – I hope all the students and Hawaii supporters come out on Saturday night and fill the stands, cheering on our Warriors!!

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