HONOLULU – The University of Hawai'i men's basketball team gave one of its grittiest efforts of the year in a 62-58 win over Fresno State Saturday night at the Stan Sheriff Center. UH improved to 14-10 overall and 6-4 in the Western Athletic Conference.
Two nights after a disappointing loss to league leader Nevada, UH rebounded with one of its toughest efforts of the year, holding the Bulldogs to just 58 points, the lowest output by a WAC opponent this year. The Rainbow Warriors also grinded it out on the offensive end, shooting 51 percent from the field, including 56 percent in the decisive second half.
With the win UH stayed in the top tier of the WAC standings and swept the regular-season series with Fresno State (11-16, 3-8 WAC) for the first time since 2009.
Vander Joaquim notched his ninth double-double of the season with a game-high 23 points and 12 rebounds to lead UH. Hauns Brereton scored in double digits for the fifth straight game with 12 points, while Joston Thomas chipped in 11 points.
Leading scorer Zane Johnson was limited to just four points but hit the biggest shot of the game, a jumper that extended UH's lead to six points with just 34 seconds left. More importantly the senior provided the bulk of the defensive work against the WAC's leading scorer in Kevin Olekaibe (18.2 ppg), who was held to just six total shots and eight points.
The 'Bows got off to a fast start and led for nearly the entire game, but could never quite shake off the Bulldogs. UH scored the first nine points of the game and jumped out to a 12-1 lead after holding the Bulldogs without a field goal for the first seven minutes of the game. The 'Bows, however, couldn't keep the momentum and their lead was just cut to just four points, 28-24, at the break.
UH extended its lead to seven points in the early moments of the second half, but the Bulldogs went on an 11-2 run and took its first lead of the game on a Jerry Brown layup at the 15:52 mark. It wouldn't last long however, as the 'Bows roared back with a 12-1 run of their own to seize the momentum back.
Hawai'i would hold the lead for the rest of the game, but it wasn't easy. UH led, 57-48, with six minutes left, but an 8-1 run by Fresno State made it a 58-56 game with four minutes remaining. But the 'Bows clamped down on defense, allowing just one Fresno State field goal the rest of the way, while Johnson's key bucket with 34 seconds helped seal the win.
UH will play the final game of its three-game home stand when it hosts New Orleans in a non-conference contest on Tuesday, Feb. 14. Tipoff is set for 7:00 p.m. at the Stan Sheriff Center.