The Hawaii men’s basketball team hung close for 39 minutes, but Utah State made the biggest plays in the final moments for a 74-66 defeat of the Rainbow Warriors at Logan, Utah.
In the Western Athletic Conference opener for both teams, the Rainbow Warriors (9-4, 0-1) shot the ball exceptionally and limited their turnovers, but the difference came on the glass. The Aggies dominated that 32-13 — including a whopping 18-2 margin on the offensive end.
Zane Johnson hit a 3-pointer to pull UH within 61-59 with 3:17 to play. But USU’s Brockeith Pane had the game’s biggest basket, a layup to beat the shot clock buzzer to go up 69-64 with under a minute left. UH had to resort to fouling an excellent free-throw shooting team was unable to make up the deficit.
Senior forward Tai Wesley led USU (12-2) with 27 points and 13 rebounds. Johnson tied his career high with 24 points, while UH point guard Hiram Thompson fouled out with 13 points, nine assists and one turnover.
UH shot a season-best 63.2 percent from the field — including 57.1 percent on 3-pointers — compared to 45.7 percent overall for USU. But the Aggies made up that differential on the free-throw line with 25-for-30 shooting, compared to 10-for-15 for UH.
UH suffered its worst WAC loss in school history in Logan last year, a 44-point blowout, but Gib Arnold’s Rainbows hung with the Aggies most of the way this time. However, it was still UH’s 11th straight WAC road loss.
The Aggies led by 11 points early in the second half, but UH wouldn’t fold.
UH pulled to within 47-44 on a Trevor Wiseman basket with 13 minutes to play, then 56-54 on a Joston Thomas 3-pointer with about 6:45 left.
Hawaii trailed just 34-30 at halftime.
Hawaii completes its two-game road trip at Nevada on Friday.