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UPDATED: Warriors celebrate 100 seasons with thrilling 76-75 win over UC Davis

Photo courtesy Brandon Flores

On a night when dozens of former players and coaches were in the arena to celebrate 100 seasons of University of Hawai’i basketball, the current Rainbow Warriors added to the long list of memorable moments with an exhilarating 76-75 victory over UC Davis on Saturday night.

Eddie Stansberry swished a 3-pointer off an inbounds play with 3.3 seconds remaining to give Hawai’i the win over the Aggies. A crowd of 4,669 at the Stan Sheriff Center erupted in celebration after Stansberry’s shot capped a Hawai’i rally from nine points down with 4:14 remaining.

It was a fitting finish for a game that was promoted as “A Celebration of 100 Seasons” and featured former head coach Riley Wallace sitting on the baseline as the honorary captain.

“A special year, a special week, a special game,” head coach Eran Ganot said. “These guys added to the history with that finish. That’s got to be one of the better finishes in our program’s history. I’m real proud of this group.”

Oh by the way, the Warriors also stayed atop the Big West Conference with the win, improving to 13-6 overall and 4-1 in the conference. The Aggies dropped to 8-13 and 2-3.

Stansberry led Hawai’i with 23 points. He shot 9 of 17 from the field, including 5 of 12 from 3-point range. Zigmars Raimo added 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Photo courtesy Chris Kadooka

Sophomore forward Justin Hemsley, pressed into extended playing time due to injuries to two starters, had career highs of 14 points and seven rebounds while playing a career-high 27 minutes.

“This was crazy,” Ganot said. “For the first half, Justin Hemsley played 15 minutes at the 3 (small forward) and those were his only 15 minutes this season at the 3, and he was incredible.”

The Warriors were without starting forwards Samuta Avea (back) and Bernardo da Silva (foot), who were both unavailable due to injuries.

In their absence, junior point guard Drew Buggs played a much-needed 40 minutes. He kept the team composed on the court in addition to his seven points, 11 assists, eight rebounds and three steals.

“Playing both ends with everything he has,” Ganot said of Buggs. “His composure kept us in there.”

Buggs’ biggest assist was his last one.

UCD’s Joe Mooney made one of two free throws with 15 seconds remaining to give the Aggies a 75-73 lead. On the ensuing Hawai’i possession, Justin Webster missed a 3-pointer, but Raimo managed to tie up UCD’s Elijah Pepper for the rebound, and a jump ball was called.

The possession arrow was pointing to Hawai’i, allowing the Warriors to inbounds the ball on the baseline with 5.2 seconds remaining. Buggs was the inbounds passer, and he waited until Stansberry curled around a screen from Hemsley to receive a pass in the corner for the winning shot.

“That’s one of our go-to plays when we need a 3 … a double stagger for Eddie,” Buggs said.

Ganot added: “Right when the ball went out of bounds, we knew what our play was. I think (UCD) might have known what the play was. I just think it’s hard to guard.”

Stansberry caught the pass and shot it without hesitation. “It was a comfortable shot and I’m glad to see it go in, but still a little bit shocked, too. It was a good, game-winning shot, thanks to Drew.”

Photo courtesy Brandon Flores

The Aggies immediately called a timeout to set up a final play, and then Mooney’s 3-point attempt from 40 feet away bounced off the rim as the horn sounded.

“We were manufacturing and manipulating guys in different position to just find a way to hang in,” Ganot said. “The way they finished, the resolve they showed, to continue to fight to give themselves a chance, because that’s really all you can do. I know during the last stretch, the only lead we had was that (Stansberry) shot.”

The game featured 10 lead changes, and neither team led by double digits.

Hawai’i opened the game with leads of 9-3 and 16-9, but the Aggies responded with a 10-0 surge to take a momentary 19-16 lead with 11:22 remaining in the first half.

The Warriors regained control with a 13-4 run to take a 31-26 lead with 5:53 remaining. The run included a five-point play – Stansberry drained a 3-pointer, and UCD’s Ade Adebayo was called for a foul while positioning for a rebound. Hawai’i received possession of the ball, and Hemsley scored off an assist from Buggs.

The Warriors eventually took a 42-38 lead at intermission, with Stansberry (11) and Hemsley (10) combining for 21 of the points. UCD kept it close behind the shooting of Stefan Gonzalez, who shot 6 for 7 from 3-point range in the first half for 18 points.

Gonzalez finished 7 of 10 from 3-point range and 21 points. Freshman guard Ezra Manjon led UCD with 22 points and six assists.

The score was tied at 61 with 8:36 remaining, but UCD then went on a 10-1 run to seize a 71-62 lead.

“We got a tough team this year,” Buggs said. “We got a team with a mentality that we don’t care what happens, we’re going to try go out there and win every game. The first 36 minutes were up and down, but we looked at each other with about four minutes left and we said we’re going to gut it out and come back and win, no matter what it takes.”

Photo courtesy Chris Kadooka

A layup by Stansberry off a nifty assist from Drew Buggs capped a 10-1 Hawai’i surge that put the Warriors back in front, 73-72 with 1:52 remaining.

UCD regained the lead at 74-73 with 1:38 remaining on two free throws by Manjon. On Hawai’i’s ensuing possession, Buggs was fouled while driving to the basket, but he missed two free throws.

After an exchange of scoreless possessions, Hawai’I was forced to foul Mooney with 15.2 seconds remaining. Mooney entered the game with a .879 free throw percentage, but he missed the first free throw and made the second.

Stansberry’s winning shot was made in front of Wallace, who was sitting courtside near that basket as the honorary captain for the celebratory game. He is UH’s all-time winningest coach with 334 victories.

“I know one thing, he’s proud,” Ganot said. “Number one thing he told me when I asked him back in the day the key to coaching, he said ‘get them to play hard and the rest will happen.’ I think our guys play hard and he’d be proud of that.”

Justin Webster, who started in place of Avea, added nine points for the Warriors. Hawai’i also out-rebounded the Aggies, 35-23, allowing for an 11-2 advantage in “second chance” points.

Hawai’i will remain at home for another week, and will host CSUN on February 2.

UC Irvine, which beat Cal Poly on Saturday, remains tied with Hawai’i atop the Big West at 4-1.

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Big West Conference
Saturday’s Results
at UC Santa Barbara 65, UC Riverside 63
at UC Irvine 74, Cal Poly 67
at Cal State Fullerton 82, CSUN 75
at Hawai’I 76, UC Davis 75

2 Comments

  1. What a game!! Holy smokes that was crazy story book stuff!

    Great effort by players stepping up for those who are injured.

    Hope Samuta and Bernardo have speedy recovery.

    So awesome to witness the celebration of 100 seasons of UH b-ball.

    And to dedicate the game to Drew Buggs mom, how special was that?

    Go bows!!

  2. Many stepped up in the game, including Raimo getting that tie up and Carper, Colina, Hulland and Hemsley during the game.
    Elijah Pepper was recruited by UH and he leads UC Davis in rebounding for the season, so far, by a bunch.

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