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Air Force ends Hawaii’s season in CIT first round

  • BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM
    Hawaii coach Gib Arnold stares at Vander Joaquim after his technical foul in the second half of the US Air Force Academy vs Hawaii basketball game at Stan Sheriff Center.
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Air Force hit 15 3-pointers and officially ended Hawaii’s season with a 69-65 decision in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament tonight at the Stan Sheriff Center.

A crowd of over 3,000 was on hand for UH’s second appearance in the CIT in three years. But unlike 2011, UH failed to get to the pay-for-play event’s second round. The Rainbow Warriors (17-15) concluded their season on a four-game losing streak.

Air Force (18-13) of the mighty Mountain West Conference was without it’s top player, guard Michael Lyons, but soldiered on by shredding UH’s predominantly zone defense. Guard Mike Fitzgerald went 6-for-10 from deep for 25 points.

Fitzgerald iced the win with two free throws with 7.3 seconds left once Hauns Brereton’s 3-point look to go ahead with about 20 seconds left was off the mark.

Senior center Vander Joaquim was a nonfactor in his final UH game with two points and two rebounds. He picked up a foul, then a technical foul, and left the game for good about six minutes into the second half. 

Freshman forward Isaac Fotu led Hawaii with 24 points and nine rebounds off the bench. Junior post Christian Standhardinger added 16 points and eight boards. Junior guard Brandon Spearman got 32 minutes off the bench, his first appearance in six games coming off a sprained ankle, and scored eight points with seven rebounds.

Air Force sizzled from deep (15-for-31) against predominantly zone defense by UH. Over half of the Falcons’ field goals were from long range.

After UH led by three at halftime, Air Force took control with a 9-1 run coming out of the break.

Fotu tied it up at 43 with a three-point play with 12:20 to go. But the Falcons scored the next five to remain in tentative control.

UH got to within 54-52 on a 3-pointer by Jace Tavita with 6:30 remaining.

The Falcons went back up by five, but Fotu scored a three-point play with 1:20 left.

AFA’s Taylor Broekhuis scored inside, and Brereton hit two free throws with 43.6 seconds to go to make it 67-65 Falcons.

Garrett Jefferson got a steal in the open court and UH called timeout to set up a tying or go-ahead basket. But Brereton’s 3-point look from the left wing was contested and off the mark.

The Falcons made five of six 3-pointers to open the game, jumping out to a 19-5 lead.

Sparked by seldom-used 12th man Michael Harper, UH surged to a 19-0 run to go ahead by six.

Air Force was held scoreless for more than seven minutes during the run. UH took a 34-31 halftime lead.

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