UPDATED: Warriors score memorable OT win over Long Beach
With stunning, thrilling and statement-making fashion, Hawai’i rallied past visiting Long Beach State in overtime, 114-107, Saturday night in wild and crazy Big West Conference men’s basketball action.
A spirited and vocal crowd of about 4,800 at the Stan Sheriff Center watched Jack Purchase, Leland Green and Noah Allen each score a career-high 25 points — including Allen’s game-tying layup at the end of regulation — as the Warriors improved to 7-9 overall, 1-2 in the Big West. Brocke Stepteau added 14 points and Zigmars Raimo contributed a career-high 11 points in 28 minutes off the bench.
“That was one of the funnest games I’ve ever played in,” said Purchase, who made 7 of 12 attempts from 3-point range to go along with five rebounds, four assists and two steals. “We knew we were coming back, the whole game. We just had to stick with them. That was the funnest college game I’ve ever been a part of.”
Evan Payne scored 27 points, Noah Blackwell and Justin Bibbins each added 17 points and Temidayo Yussuf contributed 16 points and seven rebounds for the 49ers, who dropped to 6-14 overall, 1-3.
The previous time these two teams met last March, Hawai’i earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament with a 64-60 win over the 49ers in the Big West Conference Tournament at Anaheim, Calif.
UH coach Eran Ganot said this was a significant victory not just for his team, but its fans.
“Obviously, a special win for a special group that has been going through some struggles,” Ganot said. “And you do that as a team, a lot of guys contributing, including one heck of a fan base. It’s pretty impressive when you’re going through some of the things we’re going through … and that’s why I say this is the best place ever — we have a consistent fan base, and they come up when you’re doing well, but they certainly sense when the young group we have needs support, when we’re struggling to find our identity and things like that. I want to say how appreciative we are, the guys in the locker room are.”
Green converted a three-point play after a baseline drive four seconds into overtime, Purchase swished a 3-pointer 40 seconds later and Raimo made a free throw to give the Warriors a 98-91 lead with 3:51 remaining, and Long Beach State could not get closer than four points after that.
“As soon as I got the ball, Justin Bibbins was right there so I just took it right to the rim,” said Green, noting that Bibbins fouled out on the play. “We somewhat had an advantage, him coming out was big for us, and their big (Yussuf) coming out (with his fifth foul later) was big for us, also.”
Allen had sent the game into overtime tied at 91-91 by driving to the basket and laying it in at the regulation buzzer after receiving a long inbounds pass from Gibson Johnson near halfcourt. Allen raced to the rim and scored over a defender just before the red light went off around the backboard, setting off a frenzy near the baseline and throughout the arena.
“I knew before, when the play was drawn up, that I would have enough time to get to the rim,” said Allen, who also finished with four rebounds, three assists and one steal. “I hadn’t hit too many jumpers, so my whole mindset was to get to the rim.”
The buzzer-beater and career-high 25 points were especially gratifying for Allen, a transfer from UCLA who has had an up-and-down senior season so far.
“It felt good, because I had been struggling, going through a slump, but that’s part of basketball,” said Allen, who was scoreless in last week’s two road games and had not made a field goal since the win over Southern Mississippi four games prior, on Christmas Day. “I’m just thankful to my teammates and the coaching staff for believing in me.”
Bibbins had made both ends of a 1-and-1 with 3.1 seconds remaining to give The Beach a 91-89 lead. His free throw came 19 seconds after UH’s Sheriff Drammeh tied the game at 89-89 by converting both ends of a 1-and-1. After working the clock down, Bibbins drove to the basket and drew the foul on Drammeh near the free throw line.
Long Beach State led, 47-40, at halftime and was up, 66-53, after Yussuf’s layup with 12:23 remaining in the game.
“We knew they were a great transition team, I think they had like 40 points in transition in their last game (an 89-82 loss to Cal State Northridge), so we knew we had to stop that,” Purchase said. “But when they were in the halfcourt, they weren’t hitting as many shots, so that’s what we tried to stick with the rest of the game.”
Hawai’i chipped away and eventually closed it to 84-83 after Stepteau’s two free throws with 3:39 left.
The 49ers later stretched it to 89-84 after Blackwell’s 3-pointer from the top of the key with 2:36 remaining, but Purchase answered with his own 3 from the same spot at the other end to close it to 89-87 with 1:56 left.
After the 49ers committed a turnover and then missed a shot on their ensuing possessions, Drammeh drew the foul and sank the free throws.
In overtime, Long Beach State closed it to 100-96 on Payne’s pull-up jumper with 3:04 remaining, but Stepteau answered with a driving layup at the other end and free throws by Green and Drammeh pushed the lead back to 104-96 with 2:10 left.
Barry Ogalue then drained a 3-pointer to close it to 104-99 with 1:56 remaining, but Green converted another three-point play on a baseline drive a minute later to make it 107-99. After Payne’s tip-in closed it to 108-103 with 39.8 seconds left, Green, Purchase and Drammeh made all six free throw attempts down the stretch to seal the victory.
“That was a big, big win for us, we can’t emphasize that enough,” Allen said. “We’ve been struggling, both collectively and individually, so for us to get that win is big.”
Raimo’s contributions also did not go unnoticed. Prior to Saturday, the 6-foot-7 freshman from Latvia was averaging 1.7 points and 10.5 minutes per game, and had a field goal percentage of .185. He went 5 for 5 from the field in 28 minutes off the bench against the 49ers.
The Warriors’ 114 points were the most ever in a conference game (including the Western Athletic Conference from 1979-2012) and the first time crossing the century mark since Jan. 18, 2014 (vs. UC Riverside). The 221 combined points was the second-most in UH history, and just two points shy of the record 223 set in 1959 (Hawai’i 116, Cal State LA 107).
It was also the first time since Dec. 20, 2006 (vs. San Francisco) that Hawai’i had three players with at least 20 points in one game.
But beyond that, Purchase said the victory proved that despite the Warriors’ rebuilding situation and recent struggles, they still can be competitive against the Big West’s top teams.
“We had a really good week of practice this week,” Purchase said. “We came into the game really prepared. Long Beach was picked to win the conference, I think, so we wanted to come out and show we can play in this conference and put up a fight. And I think we did tonight.”
(Game photos courtesy Matt Osumi)
Big West Conference
at UC Irvine 87, Cal State Fullerton 67
at UC Santa Barbara 58, Cal Poly 53
UC Davis 71, at CSUN 68
at Hawai’i 114, Long Beach State 107
UC Irvine at Cal Poly
UC Riverside at Cal State Fullerton
CSUN at Hawai’i, 7:00 p.m.
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