After chasing Omaha for much of the night, the University of Hawaii basketball team finally caught then passed the Mavericks in the final minute of a 77-73 win Friday night at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Keith Shamburger hit two free throws following a technical foul and Christian Standhardinger added another free throw with 53.1 seconds left to give UH its first lead since early in the first half and the Rainbow Warriors (11-3) held on to earn their fourth straight win entering conference play.
UH forward Isaac Fotu scored 22 of his season-high 26 points in the second half for the Rainbows, who overcame a nine-point deficit in the final 7:44 of the game. The sophomore shot 8-for-11 from the field and 10-for-12 from the free-throw line.
Garrett Nevels finished with 12 points and Shamburger and Standhardinger contributed 10 each.
John Karhoff led Omaha (10-5) with 15 points and Justin Simmons finished with 14.
UH head coach Gib Arnold went deep into his bench when Fotu picked up his second foul with 11:02 left in the first half and center Davis Rozitis his third at 10:06.
Freshman center Stefan Jovanovic had scored six points in three appearances this season and hadn’t played in UH’s previous seven games when he was summoned to replace Rozitis.
Jovanovich promptly grabbed an offensive rebound and hit a jumper while being fouled. He later added another mid-range jumper and hit both ends of a one-and-one before returning to the bench with six points and a block.
But Omaha didn’t trail for the last 12:24 of the half and opened up a 36-30 lead on Alex Phillips’ 3-pointer with 1:42 to go before halftime.
Aaron Valdes’ tip dunk off a missed shot brought UH to 36-32 going into the break and Fotu — who went 1-for-2 from the field and had four points in the first half — scored the Rainbows’ first seven points of the second half to cut the deficit to one at 40-39.
But Omaha’s quickness in transition kept the Mavericks a step ahead and they responded with an 8-2 run.
UH was 1-for-11 from 3-point range before Shamburger drained one and hit two free throws to cut Omaha’s lead to 58-56.
After a 7-0 Omaha run gave the Mavericks a 65-56 lead with 7:44 left, UH answered with a 9-2 spurt, closing to 67-65 when Fotu completed a three-point play.
With Omaha leading 72-71, Mavericks forward Mike Rostampour was called for a foul and was then assessed a technical foul after getting tangled up with Standhardinger with 53.1 seconds left.
Shamburger hit both free throws for the technical to give UH the lead and Standhardinger hit one of two.
Omaha missed on two attempts at its end and Shamburger made a free throw to give UH a 75-72 edge with 13.6 seconds left.
After Omaha’s Devin Patterson also went 1-for-2 from the line with 9.9 seconds remaining, Nevels hit both of his free throws to seal the win.
Friday’s game closed UH’s five-game homestand. The Rainbows open Big West play on Jan. 9 at Cal Poly.