The UH-Hilo men’s basketball team prevailed in a tough half-court battle, the opposite of its playing style, and answered every time Fresno Pacific made a late charge, showing the type of toughness missing in its two losses.
The Vulcans defeated the Sunbirds 72-57 on Monday night at UHH gym, snapping a two-game losing streak.
Denhym Brooke scored 19 points, and James Griffin scored 18 points, hitting 3 of 5 from long distance, for the Vulcans, (3-3, 1-2 PacWest), who shot 52 percent, including 7 of 21 on 3-pointers.
Toby Christensen scored 19 points, Aamondae Coleman added 13 points and Elijah Hill had 12 points for Fresno Pacific (2-4, 1-2), which converted 37 percent on field goals, including 3 of 13 from long distance.
UHH coach GE Coleman pointed to defense as a major key.
“Our defense came full circle. We didn’t defend in our loss to Chaminade (114-101). You could tell (by) the score,” he said. “Our goal was 15 assists (UHH got 16). But we had too many turnovers (15). We can’t have that, but we’re getting better.”
The Vulcans played fast to kick off the second half, dropping in six layups during a 17-10 run that put them up 48-36 with under 12 minutes left.
Larry Bush drilled a 3-pointer, and UHH followed with a transition basket when Bush hit Devin Johnson, who scored under the bookstall for a 50-36 cushion.
Kupaa Harrison buried a 3-pointer to stretch UHH’s lead to 55-39.
Cleo Cain came off the bench to add 10 points, knocking down a pair of 3-balls in the second half. Bush scored seven points, and Harrison had nine points.
In the first half, the Vulcans played tough defense in a half-court battle and led 29-22 at halftime, behind Griffin’s 14 points. The senior from Australia made 3 of 3 from long distance, knocking down contested triples.
The Sunbirds often settled for pull-up jump shots and contested jump shots and converted just 33 percent.
UHH took advantage on the rare mismatches. Jordan Graves shook free on a screen and dropped in a layup during a late 8-0 run. Then Brooke followed with a basket under the bucket for a 28-18 lead with 1:47 left.
The Vulcans gave up no easy points in transition. They often hustled back on defense and didn’t surrender any layups or open shots under the basket.
The rest of the UHH shooters went 0 for 8 from 3-point range in the first half. But it was defense that carried the Vuls, who clogged the passing lanes. The Sunbirds had just three assists and 13 turnovers, which contributed to their 33 percent shooting in the first half.