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UPDATED: UNLV pulls away from Warriors, 73-59

Taking advantage of its windows of opportunity, visiting UNLV “out-glassed” Hawai’i on Saturday and pulled away for a 73-59 victory in the opening round of the 10th Annual Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.

A spirited crowd of about 3,800 at the Stan Sheriff Center and national TV audience on ESPNU watched Kris Clyburn and Joel Ntambwe each score 17 points and Noah Robotham add 16 points for the Runnin’ Rebels, who improved to 6-4 and advanced to Sunday’s 11:30 a.m. semifinal against Indiana State.

Drew Buggs scored 16 points and dished seven assists, Mate Colina added 13 points and Eddie Stansberry contributed 12 points for the Warriors, who fell to 6-5 and into the consolation bracket semifinals vs. Colorado (8-2) at 2 p.m. Sunday. That game also will be nationally televised on ESPNU.

UH rallied from an early 23-10 deficit Saturday to lead 28-26 at halftime, but UNLV outscored the Warriors 22-3 during an eight-minute stretch in the second half to take a 50-36 lead and then held off a late rally after the Warriors closed it to 64-56 on Buggs’ layup with 1:58 remaining.

“Tough outcome for us … tough start for us, but I thought our guys battled back and obviously finished the first half well and started the second half well, but the biggest key to the game reared its head at a high level in terms of second-chance opportunities,” Hawai’i coach Eran Ganot said. “They smashed us inside on the boards. I thought our defense was pretty good in the halfcourt, making them shoot tough 2’s over our hand for the most part, but they really took it to us on the glass. We tried all our bigs … it was a combination of where they’re good, and also they out-scrapped us there.”

The Warriors led, 8-7, in the early going after Samuta Avea’s 3-pointer from the left corner, but Mbacke Diong’s putback started a 16-2 surge for the Runnin’ Rebels, who took a 23-10 lead after Amauri Hardy’s three-point play with 8:07 left in the first half. Stansberry finally broke the string with a 3-pointer from the right corner, igniting a 16-1 run capped by Colina’s free throws which put UH ahead, 26-24, with 2:14 remaining.

The teams then traded baskets, with Zigmars Raimo’s layup eventually giving the Warriors a 28-26 halftime lead.

“We did a really good job of responding in the first half, they kind of hit us in the mouth to start the game and we were getting good looks but weren’t making shots,” said Buggs, who had eight points and four assists by intermission. “(Then) we did a really good job of getting stops, putting together stops and doing a good job on the boards to make that comeback.”

Hawai’i took a 33-28 lead three minutes into the second half after Avea made one of two free throws, but UNLV answered with Ntambwe’s layup which started the 22-3 run culminating in Clyburn’s 3-pointer from the right wing which put the Runnin’ Rebels ahead, 50-36, with 9:13 left. UNLV later extended the lead to 56-38 on Robotham’s 3-pointer with 7:30 remaining.

The Warriors mounted a late rally starting with Jack Purchase’s 3-pointer with 3:17 left and capped by Buggs’ layup closing it to 64-56 with 1:58 remaining, but the Runnin’ Rebels answered immediately when Clyburn went coast-to-coast and finished with an emphatic slam dunk. After a missed 3-point attempt on UH’s ensuing possession, Robotham drained a 3-pointer from the left wing to make it 69-56 with 1:10 left.

Brocke Stepteau closed it to 69-58 with two free throws after a technical foul with 52 seconds remaining, but Ntambwe immediately knocked down two free throws at the other end to effectively seal the victory.

Buggs said the Warriors’ inability to get stops on defense contributed to their own struggles trying to get into an offensive flow.

“In the second half, we didn’t execute to the level we needed to defensively, and on the glass, to keep that momentum going,” Buggs said. “All the credit to them, they really competed on the inside and that’s something that really hurt us today.

“It was just hard because we weren’t getting the stops on the defensive end, and a lot of times they were setting up in their defense because they had scored baskets. And anytime a team is set on defense — especially a team like that, a really good defensive team — that makes it tough when they have a lot of length and a lot of size. I think it would have helped if we were able to put together some stops and get some rebounds and get some transition, and make them run with us … We wanted to try to get that pace going and play with a quicker tempo.”

UNLV made 16 of 21 free throws (76.2 percent) compared to just 12 for 21 (57.1 percent) by Hawai’i, and also out-shot the Warriors from the field 43 percent to 33 percent, including 37.5 percent (9 of 24) from 3-point range vs. 30.4 percent (7 of 23). But Ganot said the telling stat was rebounding, where the Runnin’ Rebels grabbed 44 boards compared to 29 for UH.

“I thought they fought on the boards, I thought there were some missed blockouts, but we didn’t help each other as a team,” Ganot said. “And that’s what you gotta to do when they’re driving you and they’re wearing you down. This is a Top-Five rebounding team, we need to get our guards in there, helping out. I think there were some loose balls out there that they got to before us.

“We missed some good looks, we missed some free throws, and that’s disappointing. But you’re going to have some of those days. At the end of the day, the biggest difference was on the glass and our lack of offensive execution.”

Ganot went with a different look in the starting lineup – Avea got his first start of the season at small forward, and Stepteau came off the bench for the first time this season. Also, senior guard Sheriff Drammeh got three minutes of game time in the second half but did not score. He was suspended for the previous game due to a violation of team rules.

CLICK HERE to view boxscore

(Game photos courtesy Brandon Flores and Chris Kadooka)

CLICK HERE to view photo gallery

Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic
Saturday’s Results

Indiana State 72, Colorado 67
UNLV 73, Hawai’i 59
Bucknell 84, Rhode Island 82
TCU 82, Charlotte 57

Sunday’s Games
11:30 a.m. – Indiana State vs. UNLV (ESPN2)
2:00 p.m. – Hawai’i vs. Colorado (ESPNU)
5:00 p.m. – Bucknell vs. TCU (ESPN2)
7:30 p.m. – Rhode Island vs. Charlotte (ESPNU)

Tuesday’s Games
*8:00 a.m. – Fifth Place or Seventh Place Game (ESPNU)
*10:00 a.m. – Fifth Place of Seventh Place Game (ESPNU)
1:30 p.m. – Third Place Game (ESPNU)
4:00 p.m. – Championship Game (ESPN2)

* Potential Hawai’i game

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