By Brian McInnis
Wow. What else can you say after that one?
Hawaii looked like it might pull a repeat of Thursday night's heartbreaker against Auburn — trailing all the way, and nearly coming back at the finish only to fall short. But this time the Rainbow Warriors had enough juice to rally from 15 points down and finish the job against No. 14 Xavier, resulting in an 84-82 stunner in overtime.
Joston Thomas had the game-winning basket off a baseline take to cap off his superb night (career-high 24 points, 8-for-11 shooting, nine rebounds). And give credit to Zane Johnson, who stuck with it through a slow shooting start (2-for-9 at one point) to finish with 14 and five assists, including the game-winning dish to Thomas.
Vander Joaquim gathered himself after picking up an early taunting technical to finish with a season-high 20 points.
All of that was great, but Hauns Brereton's amazing double-clutch shot to tie it at 77 with 2 seconds left in regulation will probably be what everyone will remember most. I know I won't be forgetting that anytime soon. The fact that it was Brereton who hit that, given his immense struggles from long range this season, made it even sweeter for UH.
I didn't mention this in my story for Saturday's newspaper, but Gib Arnold's decision to put Joaquim on the Xavier inbounds man after Brereton's shot may have been very important. Xavier had 2 seconds left in regulation to score a winner, but the inbounds man turned over the ball moving on the baseline first, likely thanks in part to Joaquim's pressure. (As you might recall, UH did not cover the inbounder on the play that produced Auburn's game-winning dunk in transition the night before). UH had a chance to do something under Xavier's basket with 2 seconds left, but Thomas had the ball slapped away before he got a shot off.
Guards Miah Ostrowski, Garrett Jefferson and Bobby Miles also had key plays in guarding Xavier stars Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons. You might say that UH got some help from the refs — I know I did, especially in the first half when the free-throw disparity was 16-0 for the 'Bows — but in the end it evened itself out, and both teams were bad from the stripe, missing 12 apiece.
Lastly, credit yourselves, those of you who were there, for making it a great game atmosphere. The crowd might have been larger the night before for Auburn (about 7,000 compared to about 5,500) but it was just as ferocious down the stretch when UH chipped away into Xavier's lead. Guaranteed it made Travis Taylor uncomfortable at the line in OT when he missed one of two, keeping it tied at 82 and setting up Thomas's winner.
UH actually ended up tying the Diamond Head record for points with 84. It was the second overtime game of the day after none had happened previously in the three-year history of the event.