UH-Hilo’s Kupaa Harrison dribbled to the basket to provide a game-ending exclamation point and instead ended up with a bit of question mark.
How did he miss one of the easiest shots he’ll have all season?
Probably because it didn’t matter. When it did, Harrison had all the answers.
The Vulcans’ senior forward closed out an upset-minded opponent for the second consecutive game, scoring 22 points with 11 rebounds Monday night in a 72-64 victory against Notre Dame de Namur at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium.
“The last three games, the last three minutes, he’s completely taken over the game,” coach GE Coleman.
That meant his steal and subsequent game-ending missed layup as time expired were a mere footnote.
“I just over-thought it,” Harrison said. “I was going to dunk, I just didn’t take care of it.”
No matter, he’d already sealed the deal, hitting three baskets and two free throws as UHH (7-6, 5-4 Pacific West Conference) ended the game on a 12-5 run.
The Vulcans won their third in a row to finish their homestand 4-1, getting enough defensive stops late against the Argonauts (2-14, 1-9) to help make up for what Coleman saw as a lackadaisical effort in the previous win against Dominican.
“We were better,” Harrison said. “Against Dominican we came out really flat. Started better, but we have to do a better job of sustaining that so when we sub and stuff like that, we can’t have as drop-off.”
Kaleb Gilmore has worked to keep the level of play high After Lovelle Shackleford’s 3-pointer cut the Vulcans’ lead to one, Gilmore hit a jumper to make it 62-59, and he came off the bench to score in double-figures for the fourth consecutive game, finishing with 12 points.
“I love it,” said Gilmore, who is helping to fill in for injured guard Jordan Graves. “My fifth year. Just feels good to be out there and being able to help my team win.”
Sasa Vuksanovic scored all 15 points of his points in the first half, and the 6-foot-9 post tossed in six assists, and Elisha Duplechan also scored 12 points.
UHH had a hard time guarding Ajay Singh, who compiled a double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds as Notre Dame de Namur wouldn’t go away after trailing 41-31 at the half.
Duplechan’s 3-pointer with 13:17 remaining in the game helped UHH match its largest lead at 56-44, but the Argonauts responded with a 12-0 run.
Duplechan and Gilmore stemmed the tide with baskets.
“A lot of teams would fold in that situation, you give up a loss on our home court,” Coleman. “I thought we showed mental fortitude to fight through it and get the win.”
As Harrison worked inside for layups at crunch time, Damani Whitlock came up with big plays on the other end, drawing a charge, making a steal and grabbing a rebound.
The Vuls shot 53.8%, including 16 of 26 in the first half, and are above .500 for the first time since early December.
They’ll have no time to enjoy this one, though. UHH was scheduled to leave Tuesday morning for a two-game road trip. The Vulcans take on Azusa Pacific, which is riding a seven-game win streak, on Thursday.
“We have to learn and get better from this one,” Harrison said. “When we gave up that run, we kind of lost focus. In terms of the trip, it’s the defining thing for our season.”
UHH women win
Allie Navarette scored 24 points and Kim Schmelz added 19 as the UHH women also completed a 4-1 homestand, beating Notre Dame de Namur 73-57.
Mandi Kawaha collected 11 points and five assists for the Vulcans (5-8, 4-5), who moved up in the PacWest standings to seventh place.
UHH shot 55 percent.
Cheyenne Jankulovski led the Argonauts (3-13, 1-9) with 13 points.
Editor’s note: This story has been modified to correct the misspelling of Kupaa Harrison’s last name.