Jordan Graves sank a 3-pointer with 3.8 seconds remaining to lift the UH-Hilo men’s basketball team to a 82-79 victory over No. 25 Azusa Pacific on Monday night at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium.
Graves scored 26 points, hitting 3 of 4 from 3-point territory, on 10 of 16 shooting for 26 points, Kupaa Harrison and Sara Vuksanovic added 22 points each for the Vulcans (2-2, 1-0 PacWest).
UHH shot 56 percent from the field, including 62 percent in the second half, and made 6 of 11 from beyond the arc.
“We showed perseverance,” UHH coach GE Coleman said. “We got down by 11 and didn’t put our heads down and battled back.”
Jake Spurgeon scored 28 points, Selom Mawugbe added 23 and Terrence Becvar had 14 point for the Cougars (5-2, 0-1), who shot 54 percent from the field.
The visitors from Azusa, Calif., hurt themselves at the free throw line. They made just 22 of 32 and committed 18 turnovers.
UHH had 14 turnovers and were outrebounded 29-21, not a lopsided margin, considering Mawugbe’s 6-foot-10 presences. He grabbed 11 boards.
Harrison, Vuksanovic, and Jalen Thompson each had four rebounds for UHH.
The Cougars trailed 79-77 after Mawugbe dunked with 29 seconds left. On the next possession, the Vuls committed a turnover, and Spurgeon, APU’s most reliable free throw shooter, sank a pair from the line to tie it 79-79 with 21.9 seconds remaining.
UHH inbounded, and Graves dribbled down the court and drained his game-winner when he was left open.
“Jordan is our senior point guard and has started every game since he’s been here,” Coleman said. “He did really well. He and Kupaa are our leaders on the team.”
In the second half, Harrison was plagued by foul trouble.
Graves’s triple gave UHH a 44-43 lead, and midway through the second half, Harrison scored seven straight points. He scored from close range, then got in the lane for another basket, and sank a 3-pointer to give UHH a 57-55 lead with 11:34 lead.
“He just has a calming presence and since I’ve been here he has the highest basketball IQ of anyone,” Coleman said.
The Cougars took a 42-39 halftime lead and were able to dictate the game’s pace. They preferred a half-court turtle’s pace, working the ball inside or getting to the rim with dribble-penetration.
APU looked to get the ball inside to him, and he dunked twice and scored on a pair of putbacks.
“Early in the game against our pressure, the looked to spread us out,” Coleman said. “We had to keep their guys in front of us. In their wins, they’ve been making 3 pointers. They had three in the first half and had five. That was a key to us winning.”
The Vuls couldn’t play at their uptempo pace. They had just one transition basket when Tom Power scored off a turnover. Other than that, the Cougars shut down UHH’s running game.
In a battle of half-court execution, the Cougars looked to dribble-penetrate and got layups or to the free throw line. With under seven minutes, Jake Spurgeon attacked the rim for a layup and 30-19 lead.
Jalen Thompson and Jordan Graves followed with back-to-back layups. The lead was down to seven, 30-23 with 5:52 remaining in the first half.
The Vuls followed with a 7-2 scoring run when the Cougars couldn’t play defense without fouling. Sara Vuksanovic scored five points, sinking a layup and 3 of 5 from the free throw line. Graves also added a pair of free throws.