Hawaii’s winning ways continued on Christmas Day, earning the Rainbow Warriors their highest finish in the six years of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.
A crowd of about 4,500 was on hand as the Rainbow Warriors defeated Colorado of the Pac-12 Conference, 69-66, in a back-and-forth battle in the third-place game at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Freshman guard Isaac Fleming led UH (10-4) with 18 points off the bench on 7-for-11 shooting to go with six rebounds and five assists. He was named to the all-tournament team.
Trailing by a point in the final minute, UH got CU forward Xavier Johnson to miss inside and called timeout with 32.2 seconds left. Coming out of the timeout, Negus Webster-Chan hit a go-ahead floater in the lane.
Point guard Roderick Bobbitt then stole the ball from CU ballhandler Askia Booker from behind and made both 1-and-1 foul shots for a three-point lead.
Johnson was well short on a 3 and CU took a foul on Fleming, who missed the front end of the 1-and-1 free throws.
But CU (7-5) was unable to draw iron on Askia Booker’s desperation heave to tie at the buzzer.
Webster-Chan and guard Garrett Nevels scored 12 points apiece in the win. Bobbitt scored nine and center Stefan Jovanovic added eight big points off the bench on 4-for-6 shooting.
UH was outrebounded 41-29 but helped make up for it by going 9-for-18 on 3-pointers. The ‘Bows dealt 15 team assists against only nine turnovers, blocked six shots and had nine steals.
Forward Aaron Valdes dealt with foul trouble throughout and fouled out with a season-low two points with 2:33 to play.
UH lost Bobbitt for about 10 minutes of game time spanning the first and second halves when a Buffaloes player came down with an elbow to Bobbitt’s face. He returned a few minutes into the second half.
Garrett Nevels buried an open 3 to make it 45-41 UH with 15:38 to play. UH was 7-for-13 from deep at that point.
Stefan Jankovic swatted Askia Booker’s shot in the lane, leading to a three-point chance (uncompleted) for Fleming at the other end and a 54-47 lead with 11:38 remaining.
Center Stefan Jovanovic hit the Buffs with nifty up-and-under move for a 58-50 lead, but then UH had an untimely scoring drought lasting over 4:30.
CU capitalized with a 12-0 run to capture the lead, temporarily.
UH yielded 11 offensive rebounds in the first half, the key factor in allowing the Buffaloes to take a 33-32 lead at halftime.
Forward Aaron Valdes, UH’s leading scorer on the season, picked up his third foul with 8:44 to play in the period and remained scoreless until a putback late in the game.
Nebraska won the DHC consolation championship with a 71-58 defeat of Ohio. In the seventh-place game, Loyola Marymount beat DePaul 72-69.