Heartbreak wasn’t in the cards this time for Hawaii.
Behind an outstanding effort by sophomore center Vander Joaquim and huge late plays by junior point guard Miah Ostrowski, the Rainbow Warriors earned a signature 69-67 overtime win over Nevada last night at the Stan Sheriff Center.
A Valentine’s Day crowd of about 3,500 saw Joaquim go for a career-high 24 points on 10-for-14 shooting, while Ostrowski hit two floaters — first to put UH up by three, then for the winning margin — in the final minute of the extra period.
UH (14-10, 5-7 Western Athletic Conference) moved up to sixth place in the WAC with four regular-season games remaining, and solidified its seeding for the WAC tournament. UNR (10-15, 7-5) lost for just the second time in eight games.
"We having fun yet? That’s another great college basketball game tonight," UH coach Gib Arnold said. "I hope the community’s enjoying this group of young men, because I think they’re giving you everything they got and it’s an honor to coach them. It may not be pretty, but we’re having some fun playing hard."
The Rainbows earned a season split against the Wolf Pack, avenging an 86-69 loss in Reno on New Year’s Eve. And UH refused to fall in close fashion, like the 89-84 double-overtime home loss to Utah State on Jan. 29.
UH committed a season-low 11 turnovers and held the Pack to 37.1 percent shooting. Two of their primary scorers, forwards Olek Czyz and Dario Hunt, were held to a combined 4-for-21 shooting.
Joaquim went right at Hunt from the outset, getting the WAC’s leading rebounder in foul trouble in the opening minutes. The Angolan hit a barrage of elbow jumpers and commanded double teams for most of the second half.
"Joaquim the Dream" sported a new mohawk buzz for the game and added nine rebounds.
"I just went out there and played," Joaquim said. "They beat us at their home. We didn’t play good at all. We just got owned. I just wanted to play as hard as I can."
So did Ostrowski, who again assumed crunch-time duties for UH instead of senior starter Hiram Thompson, who fell on his arm and called timeout on a fast break in the second half. Arnold said Thompson’s arm could be broken, and that the team would know for sure by today.
UH had a 65-62 lead and the ball midway through overtime. Ostrowski hit an 8-foot floater, his first points of the game, with a minute left for a 67-64 advantage, but Nevada point guard Deonte Burton (team-high 21 points) came back with a 3-pointer to tie it with 51.8 seconds left.
Ostrowski answered one last time, with a 15-foot arching release from the right of the foul line with 21 seconds left.
"That play at that point in time. I just took what was there," Ostrowski said. "That might have been the first floaters I’ve took all year. I made the right decision and I’m glad it worked out for us."
Czyz took the ball to the basket on UNR’s final possession, but missed against intense defense. The ball was batted and grabbed by Ostrowski, who was fouled with 2.2 seconds left. He missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but Nevada had no time to set anything up; Hunt’s three-quarter-court heave went off the top of the backboard as the crowd celebrated.
Senior forward Bill Amis overcame a slow start to post 15 points, 13 rebounds and six blocked shots, which matched a career high. Freshman forward Trevor Wiseman kept numerous plays alive with seven points and seven rebounds, including five offensive.
Nevada’s dormant transition game was roused early in the second half, but UH had enough to hold the athletic Pack at bay. An ill-timed 5-minute scoring drought late in the game wasn’t enough to derail the resolute Rainbows.
Zane Johnson tied it up with a big 3 from the left wing despite struggling all game with his shot (4-for-15) and Wiseman got a huge offensive rebound and made two free throws for a 59-57 lead with 1:03 left.
After a timeout, Burton got fouled on a drive, tying the game at 59 with two free throws.
Both teams had a chance to win in regulation. UH missed on a contested corner 3 by Johnson and Burton’s off-balance top-arc 3 with Ostrowski defending hit back iron at the buzzer.
Joaquim picked up right where he left off at Nevada, when he scored a career-high 22 points to go with 13 rebounds.
"His judgment has grown by leaps and bounds," Arnold said. "He still needs to speed up that judgment and decision making; sometimes he’s a little too calculating in the post. … But yeah, the guy’s learning every day."
Pack coach David Carter couldn’t be reached for comment after the game.
Hawaii now prepares to leave for Davis, Calif., to play UC Davis in the ESPNU BracketBusters event on Saturday.
WAC MEN’S STANDINGS
|New Mexico State||8||4||.667||3 1/2||14-12|
|San Jose State||3||9||.250||8 1/2||11-12|
|Lousiana Tech||2||10||.167||9 1/2||11-15|
Hawaii 69, Nevada 67, OT
Hawaii 69, Nevada 67, OT
Wolf Pack (10-15, 7-5)
Rainbow Warriors (14-10, 5-7)
Key — fg-a: field goals made-attempted; ft-a: free throws made-attempted; rb: rebounds; pf: personal fouls; pts: total points; a: assists; to: turnovers; min: minutes played.
Halftime — Hawaii 32, Nevada 27
3-point goals — Nevada 5-16 (Burton 3-5, Evans Jr.1-1, Story 1-4, Panzer 0-1, Conner 0-2, Czyz 0-3). Hawaii 4-17 (Barnes 2-4, Johnson 2-10, Ostrowski 0-3).
Steals — Nevada 6 (Evans Jr. 2, Burton, Czyz, Story, Conner). Hawaii 3 (Joaquim, Ostrowski, Barnes). Blocked shots — Nevada 3 (Hunt 2, Evans Jr.). Hawaii 8 (Amis 6, Johnson, Joaquim). Officials — Bruce Hicks, Doran Gotschall, Martin Cota. A–Not provided.