The Hawaii men’s basketball team went a long way to play in the Gulf Coast Showcase, and it showed late in the Rainbow Warriors’ first game of the eight-team tournament in Estero, Fla., on Monday.
UH trailed by four at halftime but San Francisco blew it open in the last 10 minutes and the Dons prevailed 88-73 to advance to Tuesday’s semifinals against Florida Gulf Coast.
UH (4-2) faces Marist (0-3) in the consolation semifinals at 2:30 p.m. Eastern (9:30 a.m. Hawaii).
Forward Aaron Valdes led UH with 18 points, while forward Mike Thomas added 13 and point guard Roderick Bobbitt scored 10.
The Rainbow Warriors, who traveled from Maui to Southwest Florida coming off a win over Pittsburgh over the weekend, were outrebounded 51-31 and dealt with severe foul trouble throughout.
The Dons (3-0) shot 66.7 percent in the second half en route to 55 points in the period. It skewed the overall shooting numbers to 47.5 percent for USF and 36.7 percent for UH.
It was a close game for the first 30 minutes. Thomas hit his first 3-pointer of the season with 11:15 left in the game to cut USF’s double-digit lead to 59-52.
Two 1-and-1 free throws by Valdes with 9:51 to play made it a five-point game. He hit two more at the line with 9:12 to play to make it 61-58 USF.
But the Dons put together a series of runs from there and UH had no response.
Tim Derksen led USF with a career-high 21 points.
UH used an 11-0 run in the first half to take a 28-21 lead.
The Dons came back with a 13-2 spurt by forcing turnovers, capped with a putback by Kruize Pinkins at the buzzer for a 34-30 lead at the break.
It was UH’s first game in the Eastern Timezone since playing at Kent State in a BracketBusters game in 2003.