No. 1 has Vuls’ number: Lubbock Christian comes back to beat UHH

  • UHH photo UHH’s Aniwaniwa Tait-Jones tries to make a pass inside Wednesday against Lubbock Christian at Hawaii Pacific's gym.

If UH-Hilo’s men’s basketball team didn’t know it already, it does now. 

“They can compete with anybody in the country,” coach Kaniela Aiona said.

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Even on an off-shooting day.

The Vulcans went toe to toe most of the game Wednesday against Lubbock Christian, the top-ranked team in NCAA Division II, before falling 72-66 in Honolulu.

“I’m proud of the way the guys competed,” Aiona said. “Lots of lessons learned against a veteran, experienced, championship-level team.”

The No. 19 Vuls (4-1) shot just 29% in their first loss, but they made the Chaps (5-0) sweat by forcing 16 turnovers.

“Some shots that didn’t go down that we expected to,” Aiona said, “but that’s also a very disciplined team we were playing against.”

In the second half, it looked like the battle-tested Vuls – having already beaten Division I Pacific this season – were ready to spring the upset

Aniwaniwa Tait-Jones’ layup gave UHH a 48-36 lead with 14:20 remaining in the game, but Lubbock Christian went on a 24-9 run, with Zach Stepp’s 3-pointer giving the Chaps a 60-57 lead with 5:25 left. UHH’s Donald McHenry tied the game 62-62 with two free throws, but the Chaps made eight free throws during the last two minutes.

Tait-Jones scored 15 points, Darren Williams had 13 and McHenry 11.

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The Chaparrals’ outrebounded the Vulcans 44-30 and had three players in the double digits.

“The goal was to be there with a chance to win at the end, and we were in striking distance, they just did a good job of hitting their free throws, and taking care of the ball,” Aiona said. “It was too little, too late.”

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