Another game in the ESPN College Hoops Tip-off Marathon, another thrilling win for Hawaii.
Gibson Johnson scored on a post move with 6.3 seconds left and the Rainbow Warriors prevailed in a nationally televised close battle with Florida Atlantic early this morning, 64-63, at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Johnson sunk his game-winner on the right block past 7-foot freshman Ronald Delph, who dominated UH at the other end with 22 points and 12 rebounds. His shot kissed off the glass in a similar spot as Roderick Bobbitt’s winner against Nevada in last year’s late-night game.
UH (2-1), which finished runner-up in the Outrigger Resorts Rainbow Classic, called timeout down a point and 18 seconds on the clock. Point guard Sheriff Drammeh delivered the ball to Johnson.
“We just ran one of our plays, had to stay aggressive,” said Johnson, who scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half. “(The play) kind of broke down, just got the ball in the post. I had a wide-open cutter with Jack (Purchase). I pump faked, kind of made my man go off position and I just stayed aggressive and was able to make the bucket.”
The FAU Owls (0-3) had a last-gasp shot, inbounding in the halfcourt with 2.2 seconds left. But Frank Booker’s desperation 3-pointer from the top of the arc was late and off the mark and UH players celebrated at midcourt.
“Just proud of our guys for a gutsy win,” UH coach Eran Ganot said. “I know we were going to switch everything there and not get beat on a lob. Keep a contested hand. … I saw a contested hand and our guys were communicating on those switches and stayed on their guys.”
Before his last-second bucket, Johnson also converted a critical three-point play in the last minute.
Noah Allen scored 15 and Drammeh added 13 as UH’s representatives on the Rainbow all-tournament team. Johnson shot 6-for-7 and played the last several minutes with four fouls.
“Had to play smart, had to be available so I could help my team get the win,” Johnson said.
UH survived and now prepares to face 2016 national runner-up North Carolina on Friday at the Sheriff.
“It’s big for us,” Allen said. “We got a win streak going, two games. Hopefully we can enjoy this. But we got North Carolina on Friday. Gotta be ready.”
It was the ninth straight year UH participated in the Tip-off Marathon. It moved to 6-3 in those games.
A “Black-out” turnstile crowd of 1,478 stayed up late and showed up — the game started at 11:15 p.m. Monday and ended a little after 1 this morning — for the thrilling result.
Texas State laid an 86-58 walloping on SIU-Edwardsville earlier Monday, meaning the Bobcats of the Sun Belt Conference claimed the tournament title at 2-1 — losing only to Hawaii. They won it by virtue of a three-way tiebreaker for fewest points allowed. Bobcats forward Kavin Gilder-Tilbury was named tournament MVP.
UH needed to beat FAU and hold the Owls to fewer than 52 points to claim the tourney title, and it looked possible with FAU scoring only 27 points by halftime. But that was out soon after as both teams picked up their scoring in the second half.
FAU’s Delph was an offensive outlier in a game largely devoid of flow. He showcased a soft touch in both the midrange game and especially around the basket and shot 10-for-13 from the field.
It was a rugged affair from the jump. There was little offensive flow; both teams’ shooting percentages were in the 30s in the first half. The teams traded narrow leads, with UH going on an 8-0 run late in the period thanks to the play of freshman center Ido Flaisher.
Drammeh added two free throws in the period’s final seconds as UH claimed a 30-27 halftime lead.
UH opened the second half with 3s by Drammeh and Jack Purchase, boosting the lead to nine.
Leland Green exploded ahead of the pack on an Owls turnover and flushed it with one hand for a 38-29 advantage.
FAU cut it down to three with a post jumper by Delph and a trey in transition by Booker with 15 minutes left.
Then Drammeh picked up his third foul, forcing him out of the game. Backup point guard Matt Owies struggled and he gave way to Brocke Stepteau as the Owls drew within 42-41.
Stepteau hit Purchase for an open top-arc 3, boosting the lead back to 47-41. Stepteau held things together for five minutes until giving way to Drammeh.
“Unbelievable. … We were able to get Sheriff back in there with probably the same (differential) as when he left,” Ganot said.
Allen got a straightaway 3 to bounce up off the back iron and straight through the net to keep UH ahead 51-47 with 8:30 remaining.
Delph converted a tip-in, his eighth field-goal make in nine attempts, to tie it up at 51 with seven minutes to go. He matched UH again at 53 on two free throws.
Leland Green and Allen stuck buckets to push UH ahead again, 57-53 with five minutes left.
FAU point guard Nick Rutherford got an offensive rebound on the baseline and put in the miss to make it 59-all with 2:30 to go.
Delph couldn’t be stopped. He put back his own point-blank miss for FAU’s first lead of the half, 61-59, with under two minutes.
Rutherford stuck a runner into the chest of Johnson, who responded with a huge three-point play at the other end to cut FAU’s lead to 63-62 with 49.6 seconds left.
Rutherford missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw and Johnson grabbed the board. UH called time and set up its go-ahead bucket.
FAU dribbled upcourt and called timeout with 2.2 seconds left. Rutherford inbounded to Booker at the top of the arc, and his rainbow shot over multiple defenders flying at him fell far short.
“We’ve actually won a couple games (in past years) with that same shot Frank tried to take right there,” FAU coach Michael Curry said. “They defended it well.”