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UH basketball team shocks Pittsburgh on Maui

  • BRYAN BERKOWITZ / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER
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WAILUKU » Pittsburgh got the warm-up game it wanted for the EA Sports Maui Invitational, and then some. Hawaii pulled an early season shocker with a 74-70 victory over the Panthers on Maui on Friday night.

A near-sellout crowd of 1,203 at War Memorial Gymnasium stood on its feet as UH forward Aaron Valdes made four cold-blooded free throws in the final 25 seconds.

Pitt’s Chris Jones came back with a high-arcing 3-pointer from the corner to make it 73-70 with 8.5 seconds left.

The visitors from the Atlantic Coast Conference (2-1) had to foul. Guard Garrett Nevels made one more with seven seconds left to ice the upset.

Pitt, coached by former UH assistant Jamie Dixon, could not shoot consistently over UH’s defense — exclusively zone. They shot 8-for-23 for the game and 43.1 percent from the field, compared to 52.9 percent for UH.

Five ‘Bows scored in double figures, led by freshman Isaac Fleming’s 15 points off the bench. Mike Thomas scored 12, Nevels had 11 with nine rebounds, Negus Webster-Chan scored 11 and Aaron Valdes 10.

UH led by four at the break and matched Pitt bucket for bucket in the second half.

Webster-Chan fouled James Robinson on a 3-point attempt with 9:35 to play and Robinson made two of three foul shots for Pitt’s first lead of the second half, 56-55.

Isaac Fleming converted an and-1 layup, then drew a technical foul on Pitt’s Chris Jones with 8:27 to play. But Roderick Bobbitt missed both technical foul shots.

UH forward Mike Thomas threw down a ferocious one-hander for a 62-60 UH lead with 6:42 to play. Isaac Fleming followed with a 25-foot 3-pointer from straight away to beat the shot clock for a five-point lead.

Pitt’s Shelden Jeter hit a baseline jumper to make it 67-64 and Benjy Taylor called timeout up 67-64 with 1:15 to play.

Thomas was fouled and made two at the line for a 69-64 lead with 51.5 seconds to go. Pitt turned it over out of bounds as the crowd went nuts.

UH shot 56.7 percent and committed just three turnovers in an explosive first half. Webster-Chan capped the period with a top-arc 3-pointer and the ‘Bows received a standing ovation heading into the locker rooms up 40-36 at the break.

Former UH coach Gib Arnold, who was fired on Oct. 28, attended the game.

UH now departs for the eight-team Gulf Coast Showcase tournament in Florida next week.

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