Kamaka Hepa scored 19 points, including two key free throws with 1.6 seconds to play, and Beon Riley made a momentum-shifting block as the Hawaii basketball team held off Long Beach State 70-67 in Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, Calif.
“It was a huge win for us,” UH point guard JoVon McClanahan said. “It was a tough game, a big-time game. We ended up getting it done. It was close at the end, but we ended up on top, which was great for us.”
The Beach used a 12-0 run to erase the ’Bows’ 12-point lead and eventually tie it at 66 with 1:29 to play.
Then McClanahan drove the lane and hit a layup to put the ’Bows ahead 68-66 with a minute to go.
With 31 seconds to play, McClanahan attempted a turn-around jumper. But Lassina Traore blocked the shot. Later, there was a scramble for a loose ball. Marcus Tsohonis scooped and sprinted for the tying basket. Riley raced downcourt and deflected Tsohonis’ shot. The ball hit off Tsohonis’ leg and went out of bounds, giving UH possession with 17 seconds to go.
After the block, Riley became entangled with a cameraman and did not see the play’s conclusion. “I was running back to the bench and everybody was like, ‘good job, good job.’” Riley said. “I was asking the coaches, ‘Was it out on me?’ They were like, ‘No, it’s not.’”
The referees reviewed the video and confirmed UH’s possession.
During an orientation session each season, the ’Bows are shown highlights of UH teams’ “winning plays.” UH coach Eran Ganot said Riley’s block will join the compilation video.
“That was one of the biggest ones we’ve had, and it will be there forever,” Ganot said. “To be up by a couple points and (for the Beach to) have a breakaway, and for (Riley) to come back like he did — not just to make a play but have the presence of mind to get it off (Tsohonis’) knee — to get us the possession on the road against a team that won seven of nine, in that context, it was incredible. I’m happy for him, and for us.”
A week earlier, Riley’s ailing left leg was wrapped with a bandage. “It felt good today,” Riley said.
The ’Bows missed a chance to extend the lead when McClanahan missed two free throws with nine seconds left.
Tsohonis drew a foul on a drive with three seconds to play. Tsohonis made the first throw to cut the deficit to 68-67 but missed the second. Hepa rebounded and was fouled with 1.6 to go. Hepa made both free throws.
After a timeout, Jadon Jones got the ball and launched a prayer that lipped out as time expired.
UH improved to 19-8 and 10-5 in the Big West. LBSU dropped to 15-13 and 9-7.
Hepa was 6-for-11, including three 3s. “Kamaka did it on both ends,” Ganot said. “He hit the big free throws late. He shot the ball well. He stepped up to the challenge.”
Bernardo da Silva contributed 17 points and nine rebounds. The Beach entered as the Big West leaders in rebounding. But the ’Bows finished with a 32-28 advantage on the boards.
Traore, who entered averaging 11.9 rebounds in Big West games, was in early foul trouble and finished with six rebounds.
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