Kupaa Harrison wasn’t in position to hit another game-winner for UH-Hilo this time – they were way too far behind.
Ending their road trip with a thud, the Vulcans were outplayed in almost all facets Saturday in a 91-74 loss to Academy of Art, which is nipping at UHH’s heels in the Pacific West Conference playoff race.
With the way the Urban Knights (10-15, 8-10 Pacific West) were shooting and handling the Vuls (11-12, 9-10) on the glass in San Rafael, Calif, the game was essentially over when UHH allowed a 18-3 run midway through the first half, falling behind by 17 points.
The Vulcans slipped into sixth place in the conference standings, just a half-game ahead of the Urban Knights, who earned a season sweep, shooting more than 64% from the field.
If UHH was to have a soft landing as it heads back to the Big Island for its final home game, it lies in the fact that Academy-Art has a meat-grinder of a stretch run as the teams chase the final playoff spot.
The Vulcans have senior day this Saturday against eighth-place Hawaii Pacific (7-11) before closing the season at Chaminade (13-5), which has already clinched a postseason berth, and HPU. The Knights have four game remaining, but three of them are against the top teams in the conference: at Azusa, at Concordia and vs. Point Loma. Biola (10-9) beat the Sharks on Saturday and is all alone in fifth place.
Still, a season split with the Knight would have been preferable, but UHH managed just 2-of-19 shooting from 3-point range and was outrebounded 36-23. Kupaa Harrison – who hit late shots to lift the Vuls to both wins on the trip – Sasa Vuksanovic and Elisha Duplechan each scored 17 points and Damani Whitlock added 10 points and four assists.
Josh Hill finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds for the Knights, hitting 8 of 11 from the field.
UHH 61, Academy Art 54: Allie Navarette scored 27 points and grabbed 18 rebounds – giving her 56 boards in the past three games – to help the Vuls secure a 2-2 trip and a season sweep.
Mikayla Tablit added 11 points and Sara Shimizu’s output came on 3-of-3 shooting from 3-point range for UHH (9-14, 8-11), which took the lead for good with a 7-0 run to start the fourth and a 50-43 lead. The Knights (9-13,7-11), who were led by Tayler Bennett’s 20, cut the lead to two points, but Tablit answered with 3-pointer.
The Vuls allowed just 29.7 percent shooting and moved three games behind sixth-place Fresno Pacific.