ANAHEIM, Calif. - History was made on Thursday evening as the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team notched its first-ever Big West Conference Tournament win with a 79-72 nail biter over Long Beach State in quarterfinal action at the Honda Center.
Garrett Nevels led the 'Bows (21-12) with 17 points on 7-12 shooting, including a pair of late jumpers in the paint to keep Hawai'i in the game. Aaron Valdes had 14 points on 6-9 shooting from the floor, opening the game hitting his first four shots including a corner three to cap a 7-0 run and lift the 'Bows to a nine-point first-half lead.
Mike Caffey posted a game-high 27 points for Long Beach State who close the season at 16-17.
The Beach turned a 12-point deficit into a six-point lead in the second half, but the 'Bows rallied for the win. Roderick Bobbitt's layup with 5:39 to play tied the game and Quincy Smith (10 pts, 4 reb) scored back-to-back buckets to give the 'Bows a 76-71 lead with 2:48 to play.
Issac Fleming added 11 points and four assists off the bench.
The first half saw UH lead by as many as 12 points. Mike Caffey's jumper gave the Beach a 9-7 lead off a midrange jumper but Valdes nailed a corner three then finished at the hoop off a Nevels steal to regain the lead for UH at 12-9.
The 'Bows continued to hold a slight lead before back-to-back layups from Smith helped extend the advantage to 29-20 midway through the half. Stefan Jancovic hit a pair of free throws to put Hawai'i up 45-33 with 2:41 to play, but Caffey's late three-pointer helped the Beach cut the deficit in half heading to the break.
Nevels opened the second half with a three-pointer and then broke a 3:13 scoring drought with a floater in the lane. The 49ers had worked themselves back into the game though, cutting the UH lead to just one point. LBSU later took its first lead since early in the game on a McKay LaSalle jumper.