There would be no 2-0 start for UH-Hilo’s men’s basketball team.
A physical battle between two good defensive squads turned when freshman Zach Baugher nailed two deep 3-pointers inside four minutes to play Saturday, and Western Oregon beat the Vulcans 74-69 in Monmouth, Ore..
“There are no moral victories,” UHH coach GE Coleman said in school release. “We had a chance to get a great win over a really good team, and we just didn’t get it done. We went toe-to-toe with them, I am pleased with that. We will just need to find a way in the future to win these kinds of games.”
In the Wolves (1-0), Coleman and the Vulcans were looking at a team that has won or played in the NCAA West Region final two of the past four years.
Senior guard Jordan Graves finished with 21 points for the Vulcans, hitting 4-of-5 three-point attempts, including two in the last 1:30. He scored all 21 of his points in the second half. Kupaa Harrison added 17 points and five rebounds, Jalen Thompson had 12 points and Damani Whitlock was in double figures with 11 points and had six assists.
Neither team led by more than five points in the first half, and the teams went into the locker tied at 31-31 each. The Vulcans shot 63 percent in the first 20 minutues, but also turned the ball over 15 times against the Wolves pressure. Conversely, they held WOU to 35 percent accuracy before the halftime break.
UH Hilo went on a 7-0 run midway through the second half to take their largest lead at 50-43. That came after a Whitlock 4-point play. But the Wolves answered with an 8-0 run to grab the lead back, and the teams continued to trade leads, stops and points down the stretch.
After a Harrison basket in the paint with 4:12 left tied the game at 58-58, Baugher hit the first of his big treys at 4:01 (61-58). Three possessions and no points by either team later, Baugher hit another one at 2:41, giving his team a six-point lead (64-58). Graves hit a three at 1:31, but Dalven Brushier countered with a lay-up and Jaylen Richardson hit two free throws to start to put the game out of reach.
Graves would hit one more NBA-length bomb with nine seconds left, but the Wolves hit 8-of-8 free throws in the final 24 seconds to seal the win.
Brushier, a 6-foot-3 guard, had 21 points, five rebounds and four assists. Richardson added 16 points, five rebounds and four steals.
The Vulcans now have two-plus weeks to prepare for their next game, a December 2 home match-up with Azusa Pacific.
“I wish we could play again right away, we have some good things in place,” Coleman said. “At the same time, we have lots to work on so we will take these lessons and get to work.”