Hawaii came back from a huge early deficit tonight to beat visiting UC Santa Barbara 65-62 and extend its men’s basketball winning streak to seven games.
The Rainbow Warriors are undefeated and alone atop the Big West standings at 6-0. UH is 11-5 overall after the victory at SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center. The Gauchos fell to 1-3 and 8-8.
Junior Madut led Hawaii with 16 points and nine rebounds, helping the Warriors come back after trailing 19-2 and 23-4.
Kamaka Hepa, who scored 13, gave UH its first lead with a 3-pointer with 8:24 left, part of a 13-0 run for the Warriors. He also made a key free throw with 2.8 seconds left for the final score.
>> PHOTOS: Hawaii vs. UCSB
Hawaii extended its lead to 52-45 with another trey from Hepa. The Gauchos again got within two, but Amoro Lado’s 3-pointer and Noel Coleman’s 6-foot banker made it 57-50 with a little more than 3 minutes to go. UCSB held Coleman, UH’s scoring leader, to just 6 points. But teammates picked up the slack, and the Warriors made 7-of-10 3-pointers in the second half.
UCSB battled back again, but a reverse layup by Jerome Desrosieres put Hawaii up 59-54.
The Gauchos, who were led by 16 points from Ajay Mitchell, stayed within one possession during the final minute, but Jovon McClanahan, Madut, Coleman, and Hepa combined to make 6-of-8 free throws down the stretch.
Early on, it did not look like it would be a close game as the visitors dominated the first 10 minutes.
The Gauchos penetrated the Warriors defense with ease early on with five layups all from their halfcourt offense to lead 10-2. They extended the lead to 19-2 and 23-4.
UH chipped away, and led by Madut’s 7 points, cut the margin to 30-19 at halftime.
Hawaii’s newly hired football coach, former Warriors star quarterback Timmy Chang, was introduced to the crowd at halftime.