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UPDATED: Warriors win a thriller over Utah Valley, 70-69

Sheriff Drammeh scored a career-high 20 points — including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 37.5 seconds remaining — and Gibson Johnson added 15 points and six rebounds Sunday evening to help Hawai’i squeeze past visiting Utah Valley, 70-69, in thrilling non-conference men’s basketball action.

A tense and vocal crowd of 5,187 at the Stan Sheriff Center watched Mike Thomas add eight points and six boards and Brocke Stepteau contribute seven points and seven assists off the bench as the Warriors improved to 7-2. Jake Toolson scored a team-high 18 points and grabbed six rebounds, and Brandon Randolph added 14 points, four rebounds and three assists for the Wolverines, who fell to 7-5.

“What a game, what a life, huh?” UH coach Eran Ganot said. “That was an intense, physical battle, and we kind of knew that (it would be so) coming in. Probably our best win of the year — certainly our best defensive performance of the year, particularly against a lead(ing) offensive team. We’re talking about one of the best up-tempo teams, we’re talking about a team that was shooting 50 percent from the field coming in, close to 40 percent from 3(-point range), and we have our best defensive performance against the best offensive team. We hold them to 35 and 22 (percent) from the field and from 3.

“I’m just so proud of our guys, you gotta win games in a lot of ways, and that was an intense, physical battle that tested your balance between passion and composure. (Utah Valley) is a heck of a team over there — they have size, they have experience, they have point guard experience, they have shooting … and our guys were ready to go. We took a hit early and we responded well. I’m just so proud, you get moments during the grind of the year, and that was a special moment for our guys … yeah, it was great.”

Indeed, the game was a knock-down, drag-out slugfest from the outset and wasn’t decided until the closing seconds. Johnson broke a 64-64 tie with a layup and free throw with 1:33 remaining, but Zach Nelson answered by backing in on Johnson and muscling in for a layup with 48 seconds left to put the Wolverines up, 68-67.

Drammeh then drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key 10 seconds later to put the Warriors back in front, 70-68. Nelson made the first of two free throws with 25.2 showing on the clock, but missed his second attempt.

Drew Buggs got fouled on the other end on Hawai’i’s next possession, but he missed both free throw attempts, giving Utah Valley possession with 15.6 seconds remaining. After a 3-point attempt by Conner Toolson glanced off the rim, Buggs grabbed the rebound but immediately fell to the ground and was called for traveling with two ticks left on the clock.

But the ensuing inbounds pass to Conner Toolson was thrown high, and tipped away by Drammeh. Stepteau recovered the loose ball and ran out the clock past half court.

“We take a lot of pride in defending the out-of-bounds (play) well,” Ganot said. “Our guys were locked in. Our ‘O.B.’ defense has been pretty good all year. It’s a subtle part of the game, but a huge part of the game and one we take a lot of pride in, our guys do. They still had time to get a shot off, but they couldn’t … and I thought the credit goes to our guys for defending that really well, and defending that without fouling.”

After UH took an early 6-2 lead, the Wolverines finally awakened and responded with an 11-6 run capped by Connor Toolson’s 3-pointer to give Utah Valley its first lead at 13-12 with 10:31 remaining in the first half. Then following Thomas’ putback which pushed the Warriors back ahead at 14-13, Nelson sank a free throw to start an 8-0 run finished by Kenneth Ogbe’s 3-pointer from the left corner to put the Wolverines ahead, 21-14, with 8:15 left before halftime.

Hawai’i then responded with a 12-2 run capped by Jack Purchase’s three-point play which put the Warriors back in front, 26-23, with 4:39 remaining.

Utah Valley briefly took the lead back at 27-26 a minute later following four consecutive free throws by Ben Nakwaasah, but UH answered with a 9-0 run capped by Drammen’s 3-pointer from the left wing which gave the Warriors a 35-27 lead with 2:08 on the clock.

The Wolverines capitalized on a personal foul and technical foul both called on Purchase, resulting in four straight free throws, and then Jake Toolson swished a floater with 55 seconds left to cut it to 35-33. Drammeh later sank one of two free throw attempts to give the Warriors a 36-33 halftime lead.

“They played against some top teams this season, Duke and Kentucky,” Stepteau said of Utah Valley. “So it’s that pride and confidence that they probably have — when you have that, it’s hard to get blown out, you have too much pride. So even when we got a lead, they kept hitting us with punches and staying in the game, and that’s what both teams did.”

Hawai’i built a 41-35 lead early in the second half, only to see the Wolverines claw back again, this time with an 11-4 surge bookended by Jake Toolson’s drive and dunk and Akolda Manyang’s three-point play which put Utah Valley up, 46-45, with 13:17 remaining in the game.

Less than a minute later, however, Manyang was whistled for a foul on Johnson and then slammed the ball in frustration, resulting in a technical and his fifth personal foul. Manning, a 7-foot, 243-pound post, finished the game with four points, eight rebounds and one blocked shot in 12 minutes. He entered the game averaging 15.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.

“(Manyang) is really big, physical, and talented as well,” Johnson said. “He’s a guy who will be all-league in (the Western Athletic Conference). I had to fight for position the whole time … you can never slip up with a guy like that, or he’s gonna be dunking on you. I was just battling. I played with him all throughout the last summer, so I’m kind of used to his game. I knew he was good, really talented, and he was (tonight). So I just had to battle with him.”

But the Wolverines still had Isaac Neilson, a 6-11, 245-pound senior who transferred from Brigham Young.

“They don’t really have any drop-off, they’ve got a real solid squad,” Johnson said. “They’re a really good team.”

Utah Valley later went up, 56-52, after a pair of free throws by Nelson with just under eight minutes on the clock, but the Warriors again fought back with a 12-3 run capped by Drammen’s pull-up jumper near the left elbow to push UH ahead, 64-59, with 3:13 left.

The Wolverines again answered, this time with four straight free throws top tie it at 64-64 with 2:24 remaining. Utah Valley finished the game with 27 made free throws on 32 attempts (84.4 percent).

“It could have gone either way, as you could tell the teams were pretty evenly matched,” Ganot said. “That’s a team (Utah Valley) that’s going to be close to the top of their league, a team that you could see the potential in being an NCAA Tournament team.”

The Warriors return to action at 8 p.m. Friday vs. No. 6-ranked Miami (Fla.) in the opening round of the nationally-televised Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.

CLICK HERE to view boxscore

(Game photos courtesy Brandon Flores / www.brandonfloresphotography.com)

CLICK HERE to view photo gallery

8 Comments

  1. Is Brocke S. on scholarship? Maybe he should be. Whenever he comes into game, the warriors turn it up stay competitive and finish off those 7 wins. Incredible. And oh yes, he was a walkon along with Zach B.
    It looks like, warriors could finish, 2017 with a possible, no improbable, 11-2 or at worst, 10-3 pre BWC record. watched the USC vs UCSB game, the Gauchos have scorers, UH has quick defenders, should be fun BWC play !
    Go Warrior Bows !

  2. ^^^ I completely agree with this. Now that the semester is finished, I believe Brocke can take the scholarship that is open due to Stallworth quitting. He definitely deserve it!

  3. Brocke should be given the scholarship and don’t take it away again. He was given one for last season, since they had an open one, but they took it away for this season.

  4. His family has to pay about $44,000 per year for him to attend UH, per Ferd.

  5. Stepteau definitely deserves a scholie. Of course $44K is a lot of money but Brocke comes from an exceptionally wealthy family and he’s an only child.

    Didn’t know that UVU’s Manyang played against UH two years ago in the Diamond Head Classic when he was part of the Oklahoma team. Also didn’t know he got kicked in did the team for assaulting a taxi driver and knocking the teeth out of a OU football player. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cbssports.com/college-basketball/news/oklahoma-7-footer-kicked-off-team-faces-robbery-charges-after-latest-brush-with-law/amp/

  6. The article above said Gibson played against Manyang before, glad Gibson made it back to UH okay.
    ” … I played with him all throughout the last summer, so I’m kind of used to his game. “

  7. Aside from the obvious choice of Drammeh, thought the player of the game was Gib Johnson. He almost singlehandedly fouled out both of UVU’s big men — using crafty play to make up for size deficit — while adding 15 points, six rebounds and inspired leadership.

    Johnson was pumped — playing against guys he knew with his parents in the crowd — and I’m sure it carried over to the rest of the team. Win one for the Gibber!

  8. I think Ido, Jack and Raimo helped out too on the UVU big men fouling out.
    Ido showed a nice shooting touch and moves around the basket.

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