Warriors fall short vs. Georgia Tech, 73-68

Hawai’i point guard JoVon McClanahan scored a team-high 19 points and added eight assists with only one turnover against Georgia Tech in Friday night’s semifinals of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic (Brandon Flores photo)

Georgia Tech got offensive on the glass Friday night, riding that advantage and denying a furious Hawai’i comeback to earn a 73-68 victory in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic semifinals.

A supportive and vocal crowd of 3,139 in SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center watched the Yellow Jackets outscore the Warriors 19-10 on second-chance points to improve to 8-3 and advance to Sunday’s 4 p.m. championship game against Nevada (10-1). JoVon McClanahan scored a team-high 19 points to go with eight assists and only one turnover to lead UH, which fell to 8-3 and into Sunday’s 1:30 p.m. third-place game against Texas Christian (9-2).

The Hawai’i-TCU game will be nationally televised live on ESPN2 and broadcast live statewide on radio via ESPN Honolulu AM 1420.

The Warriors overcame a 21-point second half deficit and took a brief 59-58 lead after Bernardo da Silva converted both ends of a 1-and-1 with 4:35 remaining, but Georgia Tech responded with an 11-4 run capped by Miles Kelly’s driving layup to put the Yellow Jackets ahead, 69-63, with one minute to play.

UH closed it to 69-66 about 15 seconds later on da Silva’s three-point play, but Kelly swished a floater in the lane to make it 71-66 with 33 seconds on the clock. McClanahan was then fouled on a made layup with 10.6 ticks left, but missed the and-1 and Kelly sank two free throws with 0:08.4 showing for the final margin.

“That (Georgia Tech) is a great team, give them a lot of credit, first,” Warriors coach Eran Ganot said. “I thought they came out ready to roll, and I’m surprised we didn’t. I’m disappointed more than surprised, how we came out of the gate, and a big thing is how we finished the half (down 43-27). Give them credit, they took the physicality to us from the start of the game, and we let that affect us.

“We had lapses, a lot. Good teams will make you pay, and they did.”

The Yellow Jackets jumped out to a 10-3 lead in the first four minutes, before McClanahan converted a rare four-point play to ignite an 8-2 run capped by da Silva’s layup to close it to 12-11 with 14:44 remaining in the first half. Georgia Tech responded with an 11-1 surge culminating in Tyzhaun Claude’s alley-oop layup to stretch the lead to 23-12 midway through the half.

After Hawai’i closed it to 33-26 on Justin McKoy’s 3-pointer with 3:29 left, Baye Ndongo responded with a short hook shot to help the Yellow Jackets close out the half with a 10-1 run.

Georgia Tech then opened the second half with an 8-4 surge to extend the lead to 52-31 after Naithan George’s 3-pointer from beyond the top of the key with 16:22 remaining.

“They had 18 more possessions than us (for the game), and we barely turned the ball over — only four times,” McClanahan said. “With our scoring ability and shooting ability, you would think we’d be in the game, but we gave up so many offensive rebounds, it’s kind of hard to combat that. So I think that was the main story of the game, and why we fell short.

“They’re an (Atlantic Coast Conference) team, they got big athletic wings and bigs who can jump, so that’s what we were giving up as far as height-wise and athleticism, but have to find a way to box out, get rebounds and do our jobs in order to win those games. Because it comes down to little stuff like that — more possessions.”

A layup by da Silva finally turned the tide and sparked a stunning 19-0 run capped by sophomore forward Harry Rhouliadeff’s 3-pointer from the right wing which closed it to 52-50 at the nine-minute mark. The teams then traded baskets until da Silva’s free throw gave the Warriors their brief 59-58 lead.

“I’m very proud of the guys’ effort, it’s part of the journey and we’ll get back to work,” Ganot said. “This will hurt, but don’t let it hurt too long. Give (Georgia Tech) credit, which they deserve, own it, thank our awesome fans — who were great again, and then get back to work … our guys have done a good job over the years, bouncing back after a loss.

“It’s a blessing to not have to sit on it too long, and in this tournament, which is tremendous. And against a really good TCU team.”

The Horned Frogs are coached by former UH assistant Jamie Dixon.

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