DAVIS, Calif. » Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.
OK, that’s not literally what it sounded like at the Pavilion yesterday as Hawaii’s Zane Johnson buried nine 3-pointers in an 83-69 win over UC Davis. But you get the point.
Johnson absolutely killed the Aggies’ zone defense, especially in the second half, as the Rainbow Warriors controlled the game for their first nonconference road victory in four years. Johnson scored 19 of his career-high 32 points and hit six of his 3-pointers in the second half.
"I felt good this whole week," Johnson said. "I think part of it was my teammates were just setting screens for me. They didn’t seem like they wanted to go out and guard me out there, so a lot of them were wide-open looks."
Indeed. UC Davis was at a severe height disadvantage against Hawaii in the Bracket Buster Saturday game. The Aggies list all their starting players as guards and none is taller than 6-foot-8. The game plan was obvious — pack it in on big men Vander Joaquim and Bill Amis, and hope nobody beats them from outside.
"We kept feeding him the ball," Amis said. "He can get like that. He’s a consistent shooter, so we always know he’s going to make shots."
Said Johnson, "Our game plan was to go inside and they started double- and triple-teaming our bigs, so that leaves us open out on the perimeter for open jump shots."
Added UC Davis’ Joe Harden, "We just got lackadaisical in that zone. You can’t let a lethal shooter like Zane get open to hit those 3s."
Hawaii (15-10) went on a 13-0 run in the early minutes of the game to take a 15-3 lead. For most of the first half, the Rainbows stayed in control, until a late run by the Aggies led to a short-lived 37-36 advantage. Johnson — who else? — scored at the buzzer for Hawaii to make it 38-37 at the break.
Harden’s fast-break layup opened the second half, and at that moment, it looked like the Rainbows might be in trouble. They came into the game down two starters — guard Hiram Thompson, who is out with a hyperextended elbow, and forward Joston Thomas, who missed two practices this week and didn’t make the trip to California.
It didn’t matter, at least not on this day. Joaquim made a couple of free throws to give Hawaii the lead for good. He followed that with a layup and then Johnson hit a pair of 3-pointers for a nifty little 10-0 run.
"That could have gone either way at that time," Rainbows coach Gib Arnold said. "Especially when you’ve got two starters out. I’m pleased with the guys; guys pulled it together and gave us a great defensive effort in that second half."
UC Davis (9-17) hung around for most of the rest of the way, but there was no question the Rainbows were in control. The dagger came with 4 minutes, 15 seconds to go, when Johnson buried a long 3-pointer to make it 80-64.
Johnson’s nine 3-pointers were one short of the school record set by Trevor Ruffin against Louisville in 1993.
More importantly, the Rainbows won a game on the road. Hawaii has now won three of its past four road games after losing its first four this season. The Rainbows had lost six consecutive nonconference road games dating to a 2007 matchup at Long Beach State.
"Any win is big and last year we didn’t get one (road win)," Johnson said. "It’s just building blocks for the future."
Especially when you consider that Hawaii will be joining UC Davis in the Big West for the 2012-13 season. Next season, the Aggies will come to Honolulu for another nonconference game.
WAC MEN’S STANDINGS
|New Mexico State||8||4||.667||3 1/2||14-13|
|San Jose State||3||9||.250||8 1/2||13-12|
|Lousiana Tech||2||10||.167||9 1/2||11-15|
Hawaii 83, UC Davis 69
Louisiana Tech 51, Georgia State 45
Nevada 74, UC Irvine 63
Northern Colorado 82, New Mexico State 80
Idaho 65, Montana State 50
Boise State 78, UC Santa Barbara 76, OT
Fresno State 68, UC Riverside
Utah State 75, Saint Mary’s 65
HAWAII 83, UC DAVIS 69
RAINBOW WARRIORS (15-10)
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 38, UC Davis 37
3-point goals — Hawaii 11-20 (Johnson 9-15, Ostrowski 2-3, Barnes 0-3). UC Davis 10-26 (Richart 3-4, Sypkens 2-5, Les 2-5, Payne 1-2, Howley 1-2, Harden 1-3, M.Kurtz 0-1, Miller 0-4).
Steals — Hawaii 4 (Ostrowski 3, Barnes). UC Davis 8 (Lowenthal 3, Harden 2, Payne, Miller, Howley). Blocked shots — Hawaii 2 (Amis, Miles). UC Davis none. Officials — Shawn Lehigh, Bobby McRoy, Bobby Vetkoetter. A–1,736.