HONOLULU – Refusing to tap out when it appeared it was down and out, the Hawaii basketball team surged to Monday night’s 72-67 victory over Pacific.
A Stan Sheriff Center crowd of 2, 769 saw the Rainbow Warriors rally from a 62-54 hole with 4 :17 left to improve to 2-1 in the season-opening Outrigger Resorts Rainbow Classic.
“I never think we’re going to lose, ” said Chris Gerlufsen, UH’s acting head coach. “I always think we have a run in us. Our team feeds off that. Good things happen when you plug away.”
The’Bows’ comeback came from several sources. Eddie Stansberry scored a career-high-tying 26 points, with four coming in a momentum-turning sequence.
Trailing 62-60, Stansberry got the ball behind the 3-point arc. “I came off the screen, and I got a good look, and (Daniss Jenkins ) happened to run into me, ” Stansberry said. “And (the 3-point shot ) went in. I was shocked. I was star-struck for a moment.”
Stansberry was fouled on the play, and his ensuing free throw put the’Bows ahead 64-62 with 1 :36 to play.
“The coaches emphasize if (a defender ) runs into you, just draw the foul, ” Stansberry said. “Either way, they’re going to call it or (the shot’s ) going to go in. Luckily, it did both.”
Twenty-two seconds later, Justin Moore drew a foul on a drive. His two free throws tied it at 64.
On UH’s ensuing possession, point guard Drew Buggs worked his way into an open look. “I thought about shooting, ” Buggs said. “They were going under my ball screens all day. I had a lot of open looks I didn’t make and a lot of looks I didn’t take.”
This time, Buggs resisted pulling the trigger from 15 feet. His jumper had been fickle in the first half, when he missed his first seven shots, including five from 3-point range.
“I wasn’t really shooting well, ” Buggs said. “I was thinking : ‘Let me get to the basket because I can finish pretty well.’ And the help stepped up. Zigmars (Raimo ) is a great cutter, and he cut to the basket. I found him. He had the better shot than me, and I gave it to him.”
Raimo’s layup was only his second field goal, but it gave the’Bows a 66-64 lead with 45.1 seconds to play.
Moore then brought the ball up, but faced a trap at midcourt. Mate Colina, a 7-foot post, made a diving swipe, knocking the dribble away from Moore. The ball rolled toward the Pacific baseline. Buggs, a former football player, raced down, secured the ball and, with his legs across the end line but not touching the ground, called a timeout with 22 seconds to play.
“Mate did a great job, ” Buggs said. “I had no idea where the ball was, and (then ) I saw it rolling down the court. My job was to go get it. I was trying to get it for a layup, but it was too close to the baseline. I grabbed the ball, and called a timeout.”
With 20 seconds left, Stansberry was fouled. He sank both free throws to extend UH’s lead to 68-64.
Bailey then hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 68-67 with eight seconds left. The Tigers called a timeout they did not have, resulting in a technical foul.
“We didn’t communicate, ” said Pacific coach Damon Stoudamire, a former NBA standout. “We got our signals crossed. It’s nothing you can do about that.”
Stansberry hit both technical free throws for a 70-67 cushion. UH kept possession because of the technical, and Buggs was fouled. He drained two free throws to end the scoring.
“That’s how we make it, ” Gerlufsen said of the narrow outcome. “Every game feels like that down the stretch. It was a gutsy win.”
The Tigers dropped to 2-2, while South Dakota won the Rainbow Classic at 3-0 after beating Florida A &M 85-82 preceding UH’s game.