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Hawaii basketball bounces back at UCSB


    UH Rainbow Warrior Roderick Bobbitt goes to the hoop against UCSB Gauchos Michael Bryson and Sam Beeler during a game tonight at the Thunderdome.

The Hawaii basketball team remained unbeaten on the road in the Big West Conference with a 76-64 victory at UC Santa Barbara’s Thunderdome tonight.

UH (17-3, 6-1 BWC) matched its 2003-04 squad for the program’s best start in conference road games at 3-0, and remained a half-game behind conference leader UC Irvine (7-1).

The Rainbows gradually extended a three-point halftime lead and overwhelmed the Gauchos (9-12, 3-5) through volume at the free-throw line, converting 22 of 34 attempts compared to a 7-for-13 outing by the hosts.

UH responded from a 14-point home loss to Long Beach State to notch its first home-and-home season sweep of UCSB since the Rainbows’ first year in the Big West, 2012-13.

Aaron Valdes returned to the starting lineup for the first time since facing UCSB on Jan. 9, while guard Isaac Fleming missed the game back in Honolulu with a sprained right ankle.

Valdes responded with 18 points, including a 9-for-10 effort at the line, while forward Stefan Jankovic added 16 points and 10 rebounds. Guard Quincy Smith scored 15 points, forward Mike Thomas chipped in 11 and point guard Roderick Bobbitt contributed nine points, six assists and five rebounds.

The Rainbows held Michael Bryson, the conference’s leading scorer, to two points in the first half. Bryson would finish with a team-high 16.

UCSB, coming off a 16-point road win at Big West leader UC Irvine, was forced to heave desperate 3-pointers in the final minutes. The Gauchos were just 7-for-26 (26.9 percent) from long range.

UH trailed by a small margin for much of the first half, though Valdes keyed a 9-0 spurt with seven points to give UH a 25-19 lead.

UCSB battled back and Bryson made two free throws for a 31-28 Gauchos lead with 3:51 left in the half.

Then the Rainbows converted four straight baskets for an 8-0 run, capped with a Smith steal and dunk.

UCSB got the last bucket of the half and cut UH’s lead to 36-33 at the break.

The Gauchos tied things up to start the second half, but Bryson fouled Valdes on a 3 and the UH wing made all three foul shots, making him 9-for-9 to that point.

Smith sliced through for a layup and Thomas hit two free throws to extend UH’s lead to five.

Valdes followed with a bank shot to give UH its largest lead to that point, 47-40.

Gabe Vincent stepped into a 3 off a turnover by Bobbitt to cut UH’s lead to 47-45 with 12:48 to play.

The Gauchos drew within a point, but Smith then nailed his second corner 3 of the game to keep UH ahead 51-47.

Sai Tummala came up with a 3 off the bench to make it a five-point game with 10:50 remaining.

UCSB again trailed by seven, but Bryson stuck a 3 over Valdes’ outstretched hand and Maxwell Kupchak scored on a layup to cut it back to two.

Smith made a layup to extend it back to six with under six minutes remaining, and Jankovic made two 1-and-1 free throws for UH’s largest lead, 62-54, with 4:35 left.

Jankovic followed with a post banker to give the Rainbows their first double-digit advantage.

Smith airballed a 3, but UH grabbed the rebound and Bobbitt stuck a desperation heave 3 just ahead of the shot-clock buzzer for a 67-56 lead.

Bryson sank a deep 3 to cut the lead back to nine with 2:08 left.

UH beat UCSB’s full-court pressure and Jankovic scored on a fast break. UCSB played the foul game and got Smith to miss two at the line, while Bobbitt went 1-for-2 for a 12-point lead.

The Gauchos hit one more 3 but Stefan Jovanovic scored a layup to keep the margin in double figures.

UCSB tried to play the foul game in the final two minutes but was unable to chip significantly into the gap.

UH heads north up the California coast to play Cal Poly on Saturday.

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