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Hawaii holds off New Mexico State in hoops

The Hawaii men’s basketball team earned a hard-fought 76-70 win over New Mexico State on senior night behind 22 points from junior guard Zane Johnson and 18 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks from sophomore center Vander Joaquim.

UH (17-10, 7-7 Western Athletic Conference) won for the eighth time in 10 games and moved into a fifth-place tie with Nevada. The victory, which kept alive hope of a top-four seed in the WAC tournament with two regular-season games remaining, was only earned after holding off hard charges by NMSU at the end of both halves.

Johnson’s sixth 3-pointer was the key, putting UH up 70-63 with 1:35 to play.

Freshman guard Bo Barnes added four clutch 1-and-1 free throws and Bill Amis hit two more in the final 1:05 to ice it, though the Aggies chipped away in the final seconds.

NMSU (14-15, 8-6) came back from an 11-point first-half deficit to tie the game at 35 at the start of the second half, and closed to within 67-63 after UH had led 58-45.

UH held on despite key players Joaquim and point guard Miah Ostrowski fouling out in the final 2:15.

The three UH seniors — forward Bill Amis, point guard Hiram Thompson and center Douglas Kurtz — each started the game. Thompson, who is recovering from ligament damage in his left arm, was given a token start and came out on the opening possession. Kurtz played the first few minutes effectively with a putback and a block. Amis had 14 points on 6-for-16 shooting.

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