If UH-Hilo’s men’s basketball team should miss the playoffs, it will remember a couple of games it let get away after taking large leads in the second half.
Thursday night’s game at Azusa Pacific was much more forgettable – this one got away from the Vuls from the cold, unfortunate start. If they don’t heat up at home, their season will be on ice.
UHH fell a game behind Academy of Art in the race for the final berth at the Pacific West Conference, absorbing an 88-70 lost against the revenge-minded Cougars.
A four-game road trip started promising enough Feb. 14 with a win at first-place Point Loma – a win that still may loom large – but it ended with a third consecutive loss, and the Vuls (11-13, 9-11 PacWest) never had a chance in this one, missing 18 of their first 21 shots. They trailed 37-13 with 4 minutes left in the first half.
Junior Kupaa Harrison posted season-highs of 23 points and 10 rebounds, but the Cougars (17-10, 14-6) shot almost 57 percent and held a 47-28 rebounding advantage. UHH, which shot 36.8 percent, beat Azusa 64-60 earlier this season in Hilo. The Cougars had three players compile double-doubles.
Playing its final home game, Academy of Art (10-15, 10-10) moved a game ahead for the sixth conference tourney berth with a 61-48 home victory against last-place Notre Dame de Namur (1-24, 1-18).
The good news for the Vuls with two games to go is the schedule favors them, and they only have to play for a tie. UHH hosts Notre Dame de Namur on Tuesday and Chaminade (20-5, 14-5) on March 2, and they own the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Urban Knights thanks to that win against Point Loma.
The Vuls will become fans of Azusa and Biola (13-12, 9-10), who Academy of Art visits in its two final games, playing Thursday and March 2. Biola is ineligible for postseason play.
Holy Names (12-13, 11-9) is a game ahead of the Urban Knights with a favorable schedule ahead. If the Hawks, Vuls and Holy Names should end up in as three-way tie for the fifth seed, UHH would stay home. Fresno Pacific (11-13, 8-12) is a game behind the Vuls and needs to win at Point Loma on Saturday to remain in contention.
Larry Bush and Denhym Brooke each scored 13 points for Vuls on Thursday, and James Griffin added 10 on just 3-of-14 shooting.
• Women, Azusa Pacific 82, UHH 70
The Cougars (22-4, 19-1) trailed by four points at the end of the first quarter but used an 11-0 run in the second and pulled away to clinch at least a tie for the regular season title.
Allie Navarette’s 15th double-double and seventh in a row was one of her best. The UHH sophomore made 14 of 15 from the free throw line and scored 30 points with 11 rebounds.
Freshman Maddie Beck posted a career-high 12 points, Alyssa Movchan also had 12 points and Mandi Kawaha added eight points and six assists for the Vuls (8-16, 5-15).