LAS VEGAS » One second, Bill Amis pounded his chest triumphantly and screamed in jubilation as he sprinted across the Orleans Arena court.
The next instant, a stomach punch had him down on his hands and knees in shock.
The blow came in the form of a referee waving his arms across his body, signifying that Amis’ would-be last-second putback to beat San Jose State came after the final horn. Without it, the Spartans held on to defeat UH 75-74 in a wild finish in the opening round of the WAC tournament yesterday.
"I’d like to see it again. It felt good, but evidently not," said Amis, who scored 23 points on 9-for-12 shooting, pulled down six rebounds and blocked three shots. "It’s a horrible feeling. But I’m proud to be a part of this team. We worked hard all year, and it’s tough."
Fifth-seeded UH needed to win four games in four days to win the tournament. A deep run seemed possible, considering the Rainbows had won eight of their final 11 WAC games, but their NCAA Tournament dreams were crushed in stunning fashion. Instead, UH will host a first-round game in the 24-team CollegeInsider.com Tournament against Portland of the West Coast Conference on Tuesday.
The Rainbow Warriors shot 50 percent overall, but just 37.5 percent in the second half, when eighth-seeded SJSU made its run behind senior guard Adrian Oliver (29 points), who had the go-ahead 18-foot jumper with 5 seconds left.
Junior point guard Miah Ostrowski raced the other way with the ball immediately and got off an off-balance 8-footer that was partially blocked by Spartans forward Wil Carter. Amis sprinted in from the 3-point line in perfect position for the board and got the ball out of his hand quickly.
Just not quick enough. Replays showed conclusively that Amis was touching the ball when the red backboard light went on, and the roughly 300 UH fans in attendance filed out of the arena in stunned silence.
"It’s not the way it’s supposed to end. Not with this team," UH coach Gib Arnold said. "We played some really good ball in the second half of the season. We’re building up to a pretty special year, and it has been a good year. It’s been a great year. We weren’t even expected to be here."
Sophomore forward Joston Thomas scored 16 points and grabbed six rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench, while junior guard Zane Johnson added 14 points. Ostrowski dished eight assists with no turnovers.
UH (18-12), the fifth seed, beat the Spartans in both regular-season games, but failed to replicate the feat when the stakes were highest. Eighteen-for-30 (60 percent) shooting on free throws killed the Rainbows, especially consecutive misses on front ends of 1-and-1s when San Jose State made its push in the final 10 minutes. The Spartans (16-14) advanced to face fourth-seeded Idaho in the quarterfinal round.
Though UH led 42-37 at halftime, the ‘Bows never managed a comfortable lead. San Jose State hung around and Oliver hit a huge 3 at the end of the shot clock to tie the game at 65 with 6 minutes left.
The Spartans rode that momentum to a 73-68 lead with 1:54 to play, but the Rainbows refused to fold. Amis hit two free throws and center Vander Joaquim got a big steal that led to a Johnson fast-break basket. Amis put UH up for the last time at 74-73 on two free throws with 21.7 seconds left.
After draining clock, Oliver, who shot 9-for-22, crossed up Trevor Wiseman and stepped to his left for the winning points.
"That hurts. And it should hurt," Arnold said. "If it doesn’t hurt, you shouldn’t be in this business. I think these guys hurt. I hurt. We all hurt. But we’ll figure it out."
Oliver had been held to an average of 14.5 points in the two previous losses to UH, but Johnson wasn’t able to apply the same effective defense this time because of early foul trouble.
"It’s more getting a win in the WAC tournament (than beating UH)," Oliver said. "Since I’ve been here, we haven’t been able to. I mean, I’m not going to lie, getting a win against Hawaii, who beat us twice this year, that adds on to it. Definitely as a player, you love it. But just getting a win at this level, in this kind of intense D-I basketball tournament time, is special."
San Jose State improved to 6-1 this season in games decided by three points or fewer.
"When we have Adrian and Justin (Graham), the confidence I have in them, we don’t feel we’re out of any game," Spartans coach George Nessman said. "It’s hard to put us away when both of them can make plays."
No. 6 Nevada 90, No. 7 Fresno State 80
Behind a career night from guard Malik Story, the Wolf Pack knocked off the Bulldogs to advance to today’s quarterfinal against New Mexico State.
Story shot 11-for-14 from the field — including 6-for-6 on 3-pointers — for 34 points.
"The first 3 went down, and I just felt good after that," Story said.
Freshman point guard Deonte Burton added 20 points as Wolf Pack starters scored all but eight of Nevada’s total. Nevada made 12 of 18 from long range.
Fresno State got 14 points and 20 rebounds from center Greg Smith, but a 54-point second half wasn’t enough to rally from a 45-26 halftime deficit.
SAN JOSE STATE 75, HAWAII 74
Rainbow Warriors (18-12)
Halftime — Hawaii 42, San Jose State 37.
3-point goals — San Jose State 6-13 (Oliver 5-8, Douglas 1-1, Shamburger 0-4). Hawaii 4-15 (Barnes 2-4, Johnson 2-8, Miles 0-1, Ostrowski 0-2).
Steals — San Jose State 3 (Henson 2, Shamburger). Hawaii 4 (Ostrowski 3, Joaquim). Blocked shots — San Jose State 3 (Carter 3). Hawaii 4 (Amis 3, Thomas). Officials — Winston Stith, Mike Giarratano, Duane Allen. A–na.
NEW MEXICO STATE 71, HAWAII 59
RAINBOW WAHINE (11-19)
Halftime — New Mexico State 27, Hawaii 26.
3-point goals — Hawaii 2-16 (Kanekoa 1-3, Bungaite 1-5, Gaddis 0-1, Ayabe 0-3, Tinnin 0-4). New Mexico State 8-20 (Corbett 4-6, Lowe 3-5, Soto 1-3, Sanchez 0-2, Spence 0-4).
Steals — Hawaii 5 (Kuehu 3, Arbuckle, Haydel). New Mexico State 4 (Wampler, Rutledge, Lowe, Soto). Blocked shots — Hawaii 3 (Jackson 2, Arbuckle). New Mexico State 3 (Corbett 2, Fletcher). Officials — Lisa Jones, Peter Contreras, Carla Fujimoto. A–1,083.