It was a game of runs Friday night at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. Top-seeded Hawaii outlasted UC Santa Barbara 88-76 in the back-and-forth Big West semifinal, advancing to the conference title game for the second consecutive season.
One day after being held to 12 points due to foul trouble, Big West Player of the Year Stefan Jankovic finished with a game-high 24 points thanks to a red-hot start, scoring eight of the Rainbow Warriors first 10 points.
"We're ready for the championship, this is what we've been waiting for all year," said Jankovic. "I think we're the only ones that believed we'd be back in this spot, so we're just excited for tomorrow."
Aaron Valdes (19 pts, 10 reb, 7 ast) picked up from there scoring on three straight possessions, a 9-0 UH run which gave them a 25-11 lead. From there UCSB went on a 20-5 run to take the lead before Roderick Bobbitt hit a long-range three pointer to give the 'Bows a 37-34 halftime lead.
Bobbitt carried his momentum into the second half, scoring 11 points as part of a 21-3 UH run to give them their largest lead 58-37. Bobbitt finished with 21 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals.
"These guys fought long and hard to get back here and I'm very happy for them right now," said head coach Eran Ganot. "Obviously we have to enjoy it for a second and get ready for a big one."
Hawaii will face Long Beach State in Saturday's championship game after the 49ers defeated UC Irvine 77-72 in the second semifinal. The Beach swept the season series from UH. Tip-off at 6:30 HST on ESPN2.
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