ANAHEIM, Calif. - Aaron Valdes had 12 points and a late block on Big West Player of the Year Corey Hawkins to propel the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team to a 65-58 win on Friday night over top-seeded UC Davis and earn a trip to the Big West Conference tournament final.
Roderick Bobbitt led the 'Bows (22-12) with 14 points on 5-10 shooting while adding a game-high six assists. Isaac Fleming added 13 points off the bench and Garrett Nevels scored seven points and pulled down a game-high eight rebounds.
The 'Bows will play for the Big West title and the league's automatic NCAA Tournament berth Saturday night, 8:30 p.m. PT (5:30 p.m. HT) at the Honda Center. The last time Hawai'i advanced to a conference tournament final was in 2002 when it beat Tulsa on its way to a WAC championship and its last NCAA Tournament appearance.
Corey Hawkins, who led UC Davis (25-6) with a game-high 22 points, connected on a pair of late three pointers to help shave a nine-point Hawai'i lead down to two and, after a pair of Josh Fox free throws, UC Davis had tied the game at 56-56 with 1:58 to play. Down the stretch it were the Rainbow Warriors who hunkered down defensively and were near perfect from the free throw line, making 9-10 from the stripe inside the final two minutes.
The game started auspiciously for the 'Bows who nailed three three pointers and take an early 9-2 lead. The lead swelled to 19-9 when Valdes and Fleming also dialed long distance as the 'Bows were hot early from beyond the arc.
The shots would not continue to fall as easily for the 'Bows who would go 4:08 later in the half without scoring a point. UH continued to lead however in large part to a string four turnovers on five possessions for the Aggies. The 'Bows would have trouble taking care of the ball themselves and coughed up the rock on five of their own trips down the court as UC Davis trimmed the lead to 24-20 with 2:25 to play in the first half. UH would enter half time with just a three-point lead after going ice cold and scoring just one basket over the final 10:53 of the period.