Samuta Avea scored 14 of his game-high 19 points after the intermission to lead the Hawaii basketball team to a 62-52 victory over Washington State tonight in the semifinals of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.
The ’Bows, who had never won a semifinal game in the previous 12 years this tournament was held, advance to the Christmas Day championship against SMU.
It was 35-all when Avea sparked an 8-0 run. Avea started the surge with a baseline runner and finished it with a jumper from just inside the arc.
The ’Bows were 2-for-10 on 3s but produced 32 paint points.
JoVon McClanahan contributed 16 points for the ’Bows.
>> PHOTOS: Hawaii vs. WSU
After an uneven first 19 minutes, the ’Bows surged to a 24-23 halftime lead.
The ’Bows trailed 23-20 when McClanahan hit a jumper to cut the deficit to a point.
Later, the Cougars’ top post player, Mouhamed Gueye, tried to power his way into the post. UH’s Kamaka Hepa stepped in the way, drawing a charge from Gueye — his third foul of the first half.
After a missed shot, McClanahan soared for tthe offensive rebound — only UH’s third of the half. McClanahan then used a crossover dribble to weave his way for the go-ahead layup with 34.3 seconds left in the first half. Hepa blocked TJ Bamba’s shot in the final seconds ahead of the intermission.