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UPDATED: Road rally leads Warriors to thrilling win at UC Davis, 67-65

If only the University of Hawai’i basketball team could play UC Davis every game. For the second time this season, the Rainbow Warriors rallied from a significant deficit and beat the Aggies with a last-second 3-pointer.

This one came in the improbable form of a 67-65 Hawai’i road win, as Samuta Avea drained a 3-pointer with 3.8 seconds to cap a comeback from 13 points down in the final five minutes.

A crowd of 1,648 at The Pavilion in Davis, Calif., was stunned as the Warriors finished the game on an 18-3 run. Hawai’i improved to 17-12 overall and is now tied for fourth place in the Big West Conference at 8-7 with one regular-season game remaining. The Warriors can still finish as high as the No. 2 seed, and no lower than No. 5, for the Big West Conference Championship Tournament.

The Aggies dropped to 14-17 overall and 8-7 in the conference, with two last-second losses to Hawai’i.

Avea scored a career-high 18 points, including 4-for-4 shooting from 3-point range in the final four minutes. None was. Bigger than the final 3 that came from the corner off an assist from Drew Buggs and a screen by Eddie Stansberry.

“The play was originally for Eddie,” Avea said. “But (UC Davis) blew it up and so we had to look for something else. Eddie set a screen and that got me open just enough for Drew to get it to me.”

It was an unlikely hero’s role for Avea, who was 1 for 18 from 3-point range over his last five-plus games prior his 4-for-4 flurry in the closing minutes at UCD.

“If you notice, it’s been a tough process for me coming back from my (back) injury,” he said. “But my coaches and my teammates always had confidence in me. They kept telling me to keep shooting. The shot has actually been feeling good, it just doesn’t go in, sometimes. Once that first one went in, I felt a lot better.”

There were other contributors. Zigmars Raimo had 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists, Justin Hemsley scored 11 points on 5-for-5 shooting off the bench, Stansberry scored 10, and Buggs contributed seven points, seven rebounds and four assists.

Avea’s final 3-pointer gave Hawai’i a 66-65 lead. The Aggies then inbounded the ball without calling a timeout, but Stansberry drew an offensive foul on UCD’s Elijah Pepper. Hemsley then made one of two free throws with 1.1 seconds remaining for the final score.

It capped a furious rally after the Aggies appeared to be in control with a 62-49 lead after Pepper drained two free throws with 4:42 remaining. The Warriors countered with a 12-0 run, with Avea sinking three 3-pointers and Hemsley scoring on a breakaway dunk after a steal to highlight the surge.

“The fight that this team has is incredible,” Avea said. “Even though I wasn’t on the court for some of the other (comeback wins), it’s obvious that this team never gives up no matter what the score is.”

The first half was close, with the lead changing four times. Hawai’i led by as many as five points, including 30-25 after Webster drained two free throws with 51 seconds remaining in the half.

However, the Aggies closed the half with a flurry of their own. Joe Mooney made a 3-pointer from the corner to get UCD within two, 30-28, with 29 seconds remaining, then Ezra Manjon drained a desperation 3-pointer from 70 feet away as the horn sounded to end the first half.

It gave the Aggies a 31-30 lead at intermission. UCD then opened the second half with a 7-0 run to increase its lead to 38-30 with 17:22 remaining.

UCD had a 65-63 lead when Stefan Gonzalez missed a 3-pointer with 22 seconds remaining, giving Hawai’i the next possession to set up Avea’s winning shot.

Manjon led the Aggies with 18 points, and Pepper added 11 points and seven rebounds.

“For 35 minutes, we played a good game and deserved to win, but you need to play for 40 minutes,” UCD head coach Jim Les said.

Two months ago – while Avea was out with a back injury – the Warriors erased a nine-point deficit in the final five minutes, and Stansberry hit a 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds remaining in UH’s 76-75 win over UCD in Honolulu.

“I’m happy we got the win, but I’m not happy with how we played,” Avea said. “We still have a lot to work on and get better and not put ourselves in these situations.”

Hawai’i will remain on the road and will play at CSUN on Saturday in the regular-season finale.

CLICK HERE to view boxscore

Big West Conference
Thursday’s Results

Hawai’i 67, at UC Davis 65
at Long Beach State 80, Cal Poly 73
at UC Santa Barbara 55, Cal State Fullerton 53

Saturday’s Games
Hawai’i at CSUN
UC Davis at UC Riverside
Cal Poly at UC Santa Barbara
Long Beach State at Cal State Fullerton

4 Comments

  1. Very lucky to get away with a victory. I guess we could think about it as a win is a win. On the other hand, road losses are road losses. 3 & 4 on the road this year with one game remaining will be a stretch but possible. There were at least 2 or 3 road games that they should’ve won on the road.

    Our head coach is 80-50 career here at UH (61.5% winning record). Has not won a first round Big West Tournament game since the 2015 – 2016 season. If a first round win doesn’t happen this year then the University needs to re-evaluate. Attendance and ticket sales (season and at the gate) have been on a steady decline. Good success was evident when the head coaching duties were turned over early on in the season. Could that same success be kept throughout the season if things didn’t change?

    Gerfufsen showed promise as a head coach early on. He will be sought after and end up coaching a Division I program next year.

    Good luck at the Big West Tournament.

    Go Bows!

  2. Gerlufsen is responsible for the offense which was clicking better earlier in the season.

  3. It’s been a very strange season to say the least. Our offense has become so predictable over the second half of the season. While some changes to the lineup have been made, we’ve struggled to come up with any type of consistent flow. Hopefully Samuta’s early season shooting touch is back to stay. His ability to hit shots will be crucial to us making a run in the tournament.

  4. They have some nice pieces… Buggs and Raimo are both consistent and play hard, but the 3 guys who can get really hot for the Bows are Stansberry, Avea, and Webster. If those three are hitting their shots and Hemsley can come in and bring in frontcourt energy, then they can win 3 games in a row in the BW Tournament. But all that has to happen.

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