UPDATED: Green’s 3 at buzzer and Allen’s 30 points lead Warriors past CSUN
Proving he and his teammates are much more than “one-hit wonders,” Leland Green calmly and confidently swished a 3-pointer from the right corner with 0.9 seconds remaining Wednesday night to lift Hawai’i to a stunning 80-77 victory over visiting Cal State Northridge in pulsating Big West Conference men’s basketball action.
A vocally appreciative Stan Sheriff Center crowd of about 4,800 watched Noah Allen produce career-highs of 30 points and 12 rebounds and Brocke Stepteau and Gibson Johnson each add 11 points as the Warriors improved to 8-9 overall and 2-2 in the Big West. Kendall Smith scored 20 points and Tavrion Dawson added 18 points and six rebounds to lead the Matadors, who fell to 7-11, 3-2.
UH’s upset victory comes just four nights after its record-setting 114-107 overtime win over preseason conference favorite Long Beach State. That game also featured a buzzer-beating layup by Allen that tied the game in regulation.
“Fans just saw two epic games in our program’s history,” said Warriors coach Eran Ganot. “You heard that a lot after the game the other night, with the way we fought back, and then today, (with) the game-winner. We were behind most of the second half … and I can’t tell you how proud I am of this group — the way they’ve handled adversity, the way they’ve stuck together.
“Eight minutes to go, and we’re down six or seven points, but they have incredible poise and confidence in those situations for a young group.”
Allen sank two free throws with 45.6 seconds remaining to give UH a 77-76 lead, but Dawson was fouled with 29.6 ticks remaining and made the second of two free throws to tie it at 77-77.
“There’s a reason I didn’t call timeout with 29.6 seconds to go,” Ganot said. “Earlier in the year, I probably would have. But that’s what you do with a veteran team, and the poise they’ve developed through the course of the season put them in a position where we had confidence in them to execute without a timeout. And it was indicative in a guy like Brocke getting into the paint and making a great decision.”
After working the clock down to about eight seconds, point guard Stepteau drove into the right side of the key and kicked the ball out to Green, who was open in the right corner.
“It was crazy,” said Green, a true freshman who scored a season-high 25 points last Saturday night. “I was ready at the right time, and I knocked down the shot.”
But Green admitted he was not sure if he was going to get that opportunity as the seconds wound down.
“Honestly, at first, it was loud in there so I couldn’t even hear the play,” Green said. “Brocke came off the screen, and Noah was open, and I think Brocke was looking for (Jack Purchase) … but he just found me, and I hit the shot. The crowd went crazy, the team went crazy, coaches went crazy. It was great.”
Smith’s ensuing three-quarter court Hail Mary was short and off the mark, setting off a boisterous celebration on the court.
It was a fitting end to an intense game that was mostly tight from start to finish, with 14 ties, 22 lead changes and neither team leading by more than seven points.
The Warriors led, 40-39, at halftime but later trailed 67-60 after Dawson’s layup with 7:44 remaining.
Hawai’i then chipped away and hung close until eventually taking the lead back at 75-74 on Purchase’s 3-pointer from the right corner with 2:06 remaining.
CSUN quickly took the lead back 13 seconds later when Smith drained two free throws, but Allen put the Warriors back in front at 77-76 with his pair from the charity stripe with 0:45.9 showing on the clock.
Allen made 10 of 12 free throws, and UH was 16-for-18 (89.9 percent) overall.
The Warriors played the entire game without starting guard Sheriff Drammeh, who was sidelined with shoulder spasms. Also, Purchase – who scored a career-high 25 points last Saturday — picked up two quick fouls and played only four minutes in the first half.
“Similar to last year in that regard, it was ‘Next man up, every man up,’ and everybody stepped up,” Ganot said. “(Stepteau) was great all night — seven assists, three turnovers, played 40 minutes and guarded the other team’s best player, a (Big West) Player of the Year candidate. Noah Allen continued to emerge. Guys off the bench – Matt Owies, Larry Lewis had to step up in Sheriff’s absence, and they gave us good contributions. Jack Purchase in an adverse situation … but our guys (still) being able to take the lead into the locker room at the half.
“That’s why the game was unbelievable. And they’re fun to coach, I’ll tell you that. You never know when a special moment will come, and this was a special moment for Leland, and a special moment for our guys.”
The Warriors return to action Saturday, with another 7 p.m. home game against UC Davis.
“We used the last game as a springboard going forward, so hopefully this game will be the same,” Allen said. “We have three more home games (in a row), so we’ve got to take advantage of that.”
(Game photos courtesy Brandon Flores and Chris Kadooka // www.brandonfloresphotography.com)
Big West Conference
UC Riverside 71, at Cal State Fullerton 63
UC Irvine 70, at Cal Poly 48
at Hawai’i 80, CSUN 77
UC Santa Barbara at Long Beach State
UC Santa Barbara at UC Riverside
Long Beach State at Cal Poly
UC Irvine at CSUN
UC Davis at Hawai’i, 7:00 p.m.
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