Warriors outlast UC San Diego in OT, 94-86

Hawai’i forward Justin McKoy scored a team-high 22 points with nine rebounds, four assists and three blocks to help the Warriors upset second-place UC San Diego. (Brandon Flores photo)

Short-handed again but not short on heart and spirit, the University of Hawai’i men’s basketball dug down deep Thursday night and pulled out its most significant and important victory of the season to date, a 94-86 overtime thriller against visiting UC San Diego.

A vocal and equally spirited crowd of 2,483 in SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff center watched six Warriors score in double figures, led by Justin McKoy (22 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three blocks), as they improved to 13-11 overall and 5-7 in the Big West Conference. And they did it without point guard and tri-captain JoVon McClanahan, who suffered a right shoulder injury in Tuesday’s practice and was declared out during Thursday’s shoot-around.

Aniwaniwa Tait-Jones, a versatile transfer from UH-Hilo, scored a game-high 24 points with six boards, three assists and two steals to lead the Tritons, who fell to 15-9 and 9-3.

Juan Moniz swished a 3-pointer from the left corner with 10.9 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the score at 78-78, then Ryan Rapp drained two more 3’s in OT to help UH outscore UCSD 20-8 in the game’s final six minutes.

“I think it was one of the best games I’ve been a part of, to be honest,” Warriors coach Eran Ganot said. “You never know what can happen, it’s one of the beauties of sports and life. I’ve coached 21 years (total) … but that’s one I won’t forget. I think context matters, too, and coming into the game with them being really hot, obviously at the top of our league. And we were coming in down (backup center) Mor Seck, down JoVon, Noel (Coleman) was limited this week, because he wasn’t feeling great …

“That’s not usually the recipe for success, but these kids have a lot of heart. I’m really happy for them, I’m really proud of them. I give UC San Diego credit, when we tried to separate, they kept coming back. We tried to defend the 3 really well, but they’re good (at) point of attack, with so many potent scorers. It was a great game to be a part of, in general. I’m sure it’s not healthy to coach, but I’m sure it was fun to watch.”

The Tritons jumped out to leads of 16-8, 27-18 and 34-26 before Justin McKoy and Coleman hit back-to-back 3-pointers and McKoy buried a pull-up jumper in the lane 16 seconds before halftime to cut it to 37-34 at the break.

In McClanahan’s absence, sophomore walk-on Kody Williams stepped up and scored 10 points off the bench in the first half on two crucial 3-pointers and two driving layups. Williams had played very sparingly this season and his career high had been two points.

“Kody was huge,” Ganot said. “That’s what’s great to see, during that key stretch, we kept him in for a long time and he played so well.”

Early in the second half, Williams converted a three-point play to give the Warriors their first lead at 43-42, but Francis Nwaokorie answered with a 3-pointer to put UCSD briefly back in front, 45-43. McKoy then sank two free throws to ignite an 11-1 run capped by Harry Rhouliadeff’s layup to push Hawai’i ahead, 54-46 nine minutes in.

The Tritons then chipped away and eventually took the lead back at 64-63 on Tait-Jones’ free throw with just over six minutes remaining, and held the lead until Munoz’s 3-pointer with 10.9 ticks on the clock. UCSD guard Bryce Pope put up a 3-pointer with about four seconds left, but it fell short and Coleman’s Hail Mary from about 60 feet was short and off the mark at the regulation horn.

Coleman scored on a layup in traffic with 2:31 remaining in OT to cap a 7-2 run and put the Warriors up, 87-82, but Pope later dropped a floater to cut it to 89-86 with 1:42 left. Then, with 34 seconds on the clock, Rapp drained what proved to be the dagger, a 3-pointer from the left wing to make it 92-86.

After a miss at the other end, McKoy grabbed the rebound, was fouled and then sealed the victory by sinking two free throws with 17.3 seconds remaining.

Rapp — who finished with 13 points, seven rebounds, two assists and one steal — had swished another 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down at the three-minute mark of overtime.

“When you’re in the flow of the game like that, you don’t really think about it,” Rapp said. “I’m just so happy for our guys that we got that win. We needed a win like that, just to grit it out.”

Coleman, who finished with 16 points and five rebounds, guarded the high-scoring Pope for much of the night and held him to 10 points on 5-for-16 shooting, including 0-for-6 from 3-point range.

“I think Noel had his best game as a Rainbow Warrior,” Ganot said. “When you talk about his offense, especially in big moments late, attacking the rim, hitting big shots early when we were struggling, and defending maybe a Player of the Year candidate, Pope … that’s no easy task.”

UH now turns its attention to Saturday’s visiting opponent, UC Davis. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. in SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center.


  1. UC Irvine (11-1)
  2. UC Davis (10-2)
  3. UC San Diego (9-3)
  4. Long Beach State (6-5)
  5. Cal State Northridge (6-6)
  6. UC Santa Barbara (6-6)
  7. HAWAI’I (5-7)
  8. Cal State Fullerton (4-7)
  9. Cal State Bakersfield (4-8)
  10. UC Riverside (4-8)
  11. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (0-12)

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