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Ole Miss pulls away from UH men's basketball team

By Brian McInnis

LAST UPDATED: 5:33 p.m. HST, Dec 25, 2012

A career-best effort by center Vander Joaquim was not enough as the Hawaii men's basketball team lost to Ole Miss, 81-66, in the consolation championship of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic today at the Stan Sheriff Center.

UH (6-5) rallied back from a 16-point first-half decifit and took a five-point lead in the second half. The game was tied at 63 with 3:55 to play, but the Rebels (10-2) went on a 10-0 run to take control for good. UH went to fouling and the Ole Miss lead built from there.

"We made some bad plays, and it just kept coming," said Joaquim, who poured in a career-high 29 points on 11-for-21 shooting and tied the DHC rebounding record with 15. "It was tough, but we didn't execute well in the last couple minutes."

The Rebels of the Southeastern Conference finished with a massive 26-2 advantage in points off turnovers in the ESPNU-televised game. Consecutive turnovers by point guards Jace Tavita and Manroop Clair coming out of a UH timeout with two minutes left hurt UH's chances of a late comeback.

"They disrupted us a little bit, but I just think we broke down mentally," said Tavita, who had eight assists off the bench. "We weren't mentally strong like we need to be to finish out games."

The Rainbow Warriors were denied a third straight 2-1 finish and consolation title in the DHC. They open up Big West Conference play on Saturday at home vs. Cal State Northridge.

UH played a dual-point guard lineup of Tavita and Manroop Clair most of the way to combat fullcourt pressure. Forwards Isaac Fotu and Christian Standhardinger scored 11 and 10 points, respectively.

UH closed the first half with an impressive 19-2 run for a 30-29 halftime lead after trailing 27-11 with seven minutes to go in the period.

"I'm actually ... going to talk about how proud I am of these guys," UH coach Gib Arnold said. "I thought this group, we got down early and could have folded. Saw some toughness and we came back. ... Loved how we battled.

"Obviously I'm not pleased with the outcome," he continued. "Last few minutes, we made some mistakes. That's unfortunate, it was a tight game and I thought we played well."

The teams battled evenly throughout most of the second half. UH briefly earned a five-point lead on an elbow jumper by Joaquim with 13:56 to play.

Forward Murphy Holloway led the Rebels with 18 points and nine rebounds.

No. 3 Arizona and No. 17 San Diego State will play for the DHC championship at 4:30 p.m.

Indiana State defeated Miami (Fla.) in overtime in the third-place game, 57-55, on a game-winner by Jake Odum.

San Francisco defeated East Tennessee State 67-49 in the seventh-place game this morning.

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