Riverside stuns reeling Rainbow Warriors
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Riverside stuns reeling Rainbow Warriors

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The Hawaii basketball team’s Big West meltdown continued Wednesday night as UC Riverside came back late for a 64-60 win before a Wednesday night crowd of 3,014 at the Stan Sheriff Center.

UH (13-9, 4-5 Big West) dropped its fourth straight game and allowed last-place Riverside (6-17, 1-8) to win at the Sheriff for the third straight year.

Riverside forward Menno Dijkstra buried a top-arc 3-pointer for a five-point lead with a minute left and DJ Sylvester added another with 15.4 seconds left. Brocke Stepteau answered both with a 3 of his own.

UH coach Eran Ganot shook up the starting lineup, inserting forwards Samuta Avea and Zigmars Raimo for the first time, and bringing Jack Purchase back to the first five, while bringing mainstays Mike Thomas and Gibson Johnson off the bench.

Thomas led UH with 18 points and Stepteau added 11. The team shot 33.3 percent from the field to UCR’s 42.9 percent.

The Highlanders prevailed despite missing two of their top players in guard Dikymbe Martin (suspension) and center Alex Larsson (injury). They led for most of the first half and kept it close for most of the second when they lost the lead.

The ’Bows dominated the rebounding battle in the first half but struggled to put the ball in the basket.

After trailing for 17 minutes of the period, UH closed with a Leland Green coast-to-coast layup to tie it up at 30. Riverside interim coach Justin Bell was hit with a technical foul as the teams walked to the locker rooms.

UH seized on it to take a narrow lead coming out of the break until Chance Murray’s three-point play gave UCR a 50-49 lead with seven minutes left.

The Rainbows took it back on two foul shots by Sheriff Drammeh the next trip down.

Murray hit a 3 for a 55-53 lead and UH coach Eran Ganot was hit with his first career tech with 2:19 left. Koh Flippin hit one of two tech free throws for a three-point lead.

Dijkstra’s third 3 of the game made it a five-point UCR advantage. Stepteau answered with a trey with 45 seconds left. Sylvester’s 3 beat the shot clock. Stepteau responded again, and UH took a foul on Dijkstra, who hit both foul shots with 6.2 seconds left. A Drew Buggs 3 was off the mark to end it.

UH hosts Cal State Northridge on Saturday.

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