UPDATED: Warriors edge Florida Atlantic in late-night thriller
Gibson Johnson scored a layup with 6.3 seconds remaining early this morning to lift the University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team to a thrilling 64-63 victory over Florida Atlantic in final game of the Outrigger Resorts Rainbow Classic.
A vocal black-clad crowd of about 2,500 at the Stan Sheriff Center and ESPN “Tip-off Marathon” national TV audience watched as the Rainbow Warriors improved to 2-1. The Owls fell to 0-3.
Johnson, a 6-foot-8 junior, took an entry pass in the low post on the right side of the basket, pump-faked a pass to teammate Jack Purchase cutting near the 3-point line, then sneaked the layup past 7-foot defender Ronald Delph.
“We just ran one of our plays and tried to stay aggressive,” said Johnson, a transfer from Salt Lake (Utah) Community College. “We take pride in being able to execute down the stretch. We weren’t able to do it the first night (Friday’s 69-68 loss to Southern Illinois-Edwardsville), but we did it the last two nights (including Sunday’s 74-68 victory over Texas State).”
Technically, they did it this morning, since the game tipped off at 11:15 p.m. and did not end until 1:08 a.m., after FAU struggled to launch a 28-foot prayer that fell way short when the clock expired.
Hawai’i led, 40-32, after Johnson’s reverse layup with 16:24 left in the game, but FAU chipped away and eventually tied it at 51-51 on Delph’s putback with 7:08 remaining. The Owls later took a 61-59 lead on Delph’s putback of his own miss with 1:46 left, then went up, 63-59, after Nick Rutherford’s layup high off the glass on a drive down the left side of the lane.
“There’s a reason they go right to left on that one — he’s pretty good going left,” Rainbow Warriors coach Eran Ganot said.
Johnson then converted a three-point play to close it to 63-62 with 49 seconds remaining, and Rutherford missed the front end of a one-and-one with 23.3 ticks on the clock. After a timeout, UH fed the ball inside to Johnson, who spun to his right and scored over the 7-foot Delph.
“What a game, what a lift for our young group, what a battle,” Ganot said. “I’m really proud of our guys, they’ve been thrown in the fire at even a higher magnitude because these were all close games. I’m proud of the poise they showed in all three, even the first night when we lost. Our job is to get good shots at the end, and we did. I’m pleased if we play the right way, and sometimes even if you play the right way, you don’t win. But these guys don’t hang their heads, and that’s important for a young group.”
After Johnson hit the go-ahead basket, Florida Atlantic quickly advanced the ball and called timeout in front of its bench to set up a play.
“We knew we had to switch (assignments) on everything, and not get beat on the lob — that was one of our concerns because he (Delph) is so big, they could just throw it up to him,” Ganot said. “We wanted to contest the shot, but the danger there is you don’t want to foul, because they were in the bonus (situation).”
Delph finished with a game-high 22 points, on 10-for-13 shooting from the field, to go along with a game-high 12 rebounds and three blocked shots.
“It was tough defending him,” Johnson said. “We said we were going to live with the fadeaway, but then he made like 6 of 6 of them. The credit goes to him, those were tough shots.”
Ganot said “it was a handful” for his team to deal with Delph.
“We tried to make him shoot tough shots, but he hit some face-ups, fadeaways, and he really killed us on the offensive glass,” Ganot said. “More than anything, he kicked our tail on the glass, and we need to do a better job, plain and simple.”
Noah Allen led UH with 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Johnson and Sheriff Drammeh each added 13 points.
Hawai’i led, 30-27, at halftime after 20 minutes of sometimes ragged basketball.
FAU jumped out to an 11-6 lead in the first five minutes, but the Rainbow Warriors responded with back-to-back 3-pointers by Drammeh and Allen to tie it at 12-12 with 11:53 remaining in the half. The Owls quickly took the lead back and went up, 24-20, after Jeantal Cylla’s 3-pointer from the top of the key at the 5:01 mark.
Allen then put back his own miss with 3:42 left to start UH on an 8-0 run capped by Ido Flaisher’s two free throws to push the Rainbow Warriors ahead, 28-27, with 1:33 remaining. FAU cut it to 28-27 on Adonis Filer’s 3-pointer 10 seconds later, but Drammeh sank two free throws with 2.9 seconds on the clock to give Hawai’i a 30-27 halftime lead.
Ganot said he was pleased overall with the first half performance, especially compared to Sunday night, when the Rainbow Warriors fell behind 10-0 and trailed 38-26 by halftime.
“There were longer stretches of better play (tonight),” Ganot said. “And I loved how we closed — we were playing Hawai’i basketball.”
Hawai’i, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville and Texas State all finished with 2-1 records in the Rainbow Classic. Texas State was awarded the championship trophy based on the three-way tiebreaker of fewest points allowed in the tournament. Texas State allowed 189 points, Hawai’i allowed 200, and SIUE allowed 222.
Allen and Drammeh were named to the All-Tournament team.
In their next game, the Rainbow Warriors will be playing against North Carolina basketball, as the No. 5-ranked and defending NCAA runner-up Tar Heels will visit the SSC at 8 p.m. Friday.
“We gotta go back to work, but right now, first we gotta rest them (the players),” Ganot said. “It always starts with us getting healed up, and refreshed. … And then, obviously we’ll be looking at North Carolina.”
Game photos courtesy Brandon Flores / www.brandonfloresphotography.com
Outrigger Resorts Rainbow Classic
Texas State 61, Florida Atlantic 57
SIU-Edwardsville 69, Hawai’i 68
SIU-Edwardsville 77, Florida Atlantic 68
Hawai’i 74, Texas State 68
Texas State 86, SIU-Edwardsville 58
Hawai’i 64, Florida Atlantic 63
Noah Allen, Hawai’i
Ronald Delph, Florida Atlantic
Sheriff Drammeh, Hawai’i
Tre Harris, SIUE
Nijal Pearson, Texas State
Most Outstanding Player: Kavin Gilder-Tilbury, Texas State
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