The Hawaii basketball team jumped out to a huge halftime lead, then withstood a furious rally from UC Riverside to earn its first road win of the season, 72-63 at SRC Arena in Riverside, Calif., tonight.
UH (10-11, 4-4 Big West) saw a 20-point advantage at intermission trimmed to three late, but held on and moved into a four-way tie for fourth place at the midpoint of the conference schedule. Jack Purchase and Sheriff Drammeh led the way with 15 points each, while point guard Brocke Stepteau added 14 points and seven assists. Purchase grabbed a career-high nine rebounds.
UCR (6-13, 4-4) was going for its first home-and-home sweep of UH after beating the ’Bows 70-64 in Honolulu just eight days ago. The Highlanders nearly completed an epic comeback, shooting 18-for-24 (75 percent) in the second half after going 7-for-26 (26.9) in the first.
Coming off a career-high 34 points in a win over UC Santa Barbara last Saturday, wing Noah Allen was held to seven points with five turnovers. But Drammeh and Gibson Johnson contributed some key late defensive plays to seal the win.
Behind Purchase’s 11 first-half points, UH shot 55.6 percent in the first half, including 7-for-11 from 3, to build the big lead.
The ’Bows switched to a 2-3 zone defense, keying a 25-1 run going into halftime. Riverside went the last 9:19 of the half without a field goal.
Dikymbe Martin (game-high 21 points) ignited a 10-0 UCR run to start the second half with an elbow jumper and a 3-pointer.
Purchase ended the run with a 3 and UH pushed it back to 18 behind a deep 3 from Drammeh and three free throws between Stepteau and Ido Flaisher.
Riverside scored six straight to cut it to 12 and, after Johnson hit one of two at the line, UCR drew within 50-39 on two Secean Johnson free throws with 9:46 left.
Malik Thames and Martin made layups to cut it to six with 6:46 left. After an Allen turnover in the paint, Secean Johnson converted a layup at the other end to cut it to 55-51.
Gibson Johnson gave UH some breathing room with two free throws, but Chance Murray (15 points) answered with a jumper.
UH’s Johnson stuck an elbow jumper, answered by a baseline dunk by UCR’s Johnson.
Stepteau and Martin traded buckets, then Drammeh hit a 3 to push the lead to 64-57 with 2:56 left.
Drammeh took a huge charge on Martin with 1:35 left, negating a 2-on-1 Riverside fast break. But after a UH turnover, Martin hit a deep 3 to cut it to 64-61.
UH burned its final timeout with 1:02 remaining, after which Stepteau found Johnson for a layup.
Johnson took a key charge along the baseline and Stepteau and Drammeh combined to go 6-for-6 at the line to ice the win.
UH continues play at third-place Cal State Northridge (10-12, 6-3) on Saturday.