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UPDATED: Warriors rebound to rally past Colorado in OT, 70-62

Rebounding quickly in both the literal and figurative sense, Hawai’i rallied past visiting Colorado in overtime, 70-62, on Sunday afternoon in the consolation bracket semifinals of the 10th Annual Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.

A sparse-but-vocal crowd of about 2,300 and national TV audience on ESPNU watched Eddie Stansberry score 18 points and Zigmars Raimo and Jack Purchase each add 14 points as the Warriors improved to 7-5 and advanced to the fifth-place game Rhode Island at 10 a.m. Christmas Day.

McKinley Wright scored a game-high 20 points and Lucas Siewert added 19 points for the Buffaloes, who fell to 8-3 and into the seventh-place game.

Brocke Stepteau added 13 points for UH, and Raimo tied a tournament record with 17 rebounds, matching the output from Harvard’s Zena Edosomwan vs. Brigham Young in 2015. Purchase notched 10 boards, and the Warriors out-rebounded Colorado 48-35 overall.

“I’m really proud of our guys, it’s a special moment in the locker room right now,” Hawai’i coach Eran Ganot said after the game. “(It’s a) gritty group, under the circumstances, too. To come back from a game (73-59 loss to UNLV) we had yesterday, 24 hours later, and have that kind of resolve against a program like that (Colorado) — lot of respect for that program, a Top 50 program coming in … lot of respect for that (coaching) staff.

“The game was electric — really appreciative of our crowd, (they were) really vocal — but there were some really gritty, breakthrough toughness moments for our team on the glass. We’ve made a lot of headway defensively, but rebounding left us yesterday. We played another plus-nine rebounding team today and won (that battle) by 13. A combination of that and clutch plays by guys like Brocke and Jack led to this special moment, and I’m happy for them.”

Warriors point guard Drew Buggs broke a 59-59 tie with a 3-pointer at the 3:38 mark in OT, and Purchase followed with another 3-pointer from the left wing off of Stepteau’s baseline drive and assist to stretch the lead to 65-60 with 52.5 seconds remaining. UH then converted five of six free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.

“My coaches just keep telling me to shoot it, I’ve got the green light,” said Purchase, who drained 4 of 11 shots from beyond the arc. “And my teammates trust me, they do a great job of finding me, and today I made a big one.”

The teams played to a 24-24 deadlock in the first half, but the Warriors opened the second half with an 8-2 run and led, 34-26, four minutes in after Stansberry’s 3-pointer from the right corner off of Raimo’s jump pass. Colorado responded with an 11-3 run capped by Siewert’s layup to tie it again at 37-37 with 11:13 remaining in regulation.

The Buffaloes eventually took a 52-46 lead after an 8-2 run culminating in Siewert’s three-point play with 3:57 left, but Hawai’i answered with a 9-2 surge capped by Stepteau’s driving layup with 29.5 seconds remaining to put the Warriors ahead, 56-54. Wright then tied it with a tough eight-foot turnaround bank shot from the right side and was fouled with 16.9 ticks on the clock, but could not complete the three-point play.

UH missed a chance to win it on a 3-pointer and putback in the closing seconds, sending the game into overtime.

“We came out great to end the first half and start the second half, but then (Colorado) changed some things offensively and challenged our bigs and moved guys around enough where we had to make another adjustment,” Ganot said. “We were down (52-46), but look in (the Warriors’) eyes, look in the huddle — we talk about that with great teams, and we are working toward that, but our composure … was pretty impressive. We made big plays down the stretch, and we had to manage some serious foul trouble (four players ended with four fouls each).

“Guys did a great job executing offensively and defensively — we did a lot of offense-for-defense substitutions in the last 10 minutes, and they handled it tremendously.”

Stansberry sank two free throws with 30.1 seconds left to extend the overtime lead to 67-60, and after D’Shawn Schwartz answered with two free throws 12 ticks later to close it to 67-62, Stansberry made one of two foul shots to make to 68-62 with 16 seconds showing on the clock.

After a miss at the other end, Stepteau nailed the coffin with two free throws and only eight seconds remaining.

“That’s just my teammates and my coaches having confidence in me,” said Stepteau, who went 0 for 3 from the field and 2 for 5 from the free throw line in Saturday’s loss. “I had a bad game yesterday, and I had to sleep on it. I wanted to come out and play good today, and I got into foul trouble early, but my teammates and my coaches in the second half told me to just stay aggressive and luckily, it worked out.”

Ganot said with Stepteau, it is more than just luck.

“He’s got a lot of ‘late-clock Brocke,’ but it’s not just with his shots, it’s his composure, his decision-making,” Ganot said. “You can talk about ‘natural’ with him, (but also) experiences and now fifth-year senior. I can’t tell you how great a luxury it is to have a guy like him and Drew in the backcourt.”

Purchase said the entire team felt confident heading into overtime, especially on the home floor.

“We always feel confident going into OT, there’s something about the ‘Stan,’ ” Purchase said. “When you’re in the “Stan’ playing in OT, you get a little bit of an extra boost, and it definitely helped us. The crowd was behind us, and the boys rallied.”

Colorado head coach Tad Boyle said the Buffaloes faltered on defense in the game’s crucial moments. “Our defense for 37 minutes was good enough,but the last 3 minutes of regulation and overtime, it was not good enough,” he said. “That’s unfortunate.”

Colorado entered the game averaging 82.6 points per game, and the 62 points scored against Hawai’i is the Buffaloes’ season-low. Colorado also shot a season-low 33.9 percent from the field and 18.9 percent (4 for 22) from 3-point range.

The Hawai’i win kept a Diamond Head Classic streak alive for the Warriors – they have won at least one game in each of the 10 years of the tournament.

As if the Warriors needed any extra motivation, the victory also meant avoiding the dreaded 8 a.m. Christmas Day time slot for the seventh-place game.

“That’s definitely motivation … we didn’t want to do that,” Stepteau said. “But the real motivation was (beating) a Pac-12 team … and we want to protect our home court.”

CLICK HERE to view boxscore

(Game photos courtesy Brandon Flores and Chris Kadooka)

CLICK HERE to view photo gallery

Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic
Sunday’s Games

Indiana State 84, UNLV 79
Hawai’i 70, Colorado 62 (OT)
TCU 82, Bucknell 65
Rhode Island 75, Charlotte 61

Tuesday’s Games
8:00 a.m. – Colorado vs. Charlotte
10:00 a.m. – Hawai’i vs. Rhode Island
1:30 p.m. – UNLV vs. Bucknell (ESPNU)
4:00 p.m. – Indiana State vs. TCU (ESPN2)

3 Comments

  1. Good video and story.

  2. This team is so strange. One day they look great, the next day they look bad. I just hope and pray they put it all together for the Big West conference and tournament. They are very capable of winning the title!

  3. Hawaii beating 2 out of 3 Pac12 teams this year very good. Dream scenario. Hawaii had 400 million annual athletic private and public funded athletics. UH could compete with lower end of Pac12. Still
    Eran ..name of game recruit at least 6 or 7 high level athletic strong players. Think Hawaii will be top 4 BWC this year. Go Bows!! Rhode Island will be fun game. Hope for big warrior win. Unless those small quick ram guards give bows problems!

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