HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In an instant classic between old conference foes, the University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team pulled out a 67-63 win over UTEP on the opening night the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic Sunday at the Stan Sheriff Center.
UH (8-3), trailed by as many as nine points in the second half, however used ball movement and steady defense down the stretch to advance to the championship bracket of the tournament for the first time since 2015.
Awaiting the Rainbow Warriors will be No. 22 Washington as the teams face off in a semifinal showdown on Monday at 6:00 p.m.
The 'Bows were led by strong shooting by Samuta Avea and Bernardo Silva.
Avea scored 16 points, all but two of them coming in the second half, while adding eight rebounds, while Da Silva also had his best game of the season with 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting, while also adding five rebounds.
Their effort helped off-set an offensive explosion by UTEP’s Bryson Williams, who poured in 33 points, the most by a UH opponent this season.
The first half was back-and-forth with nine ties and five lead changes, as the Miners scored six straight points in the final 50 seconds of the half to take a 37-31 lead at intermission.
The Miners extended that lead to nine points early in the second half, and held a 51-43 led with just over 10 minutes left.
That’s when Avea took over, scoring seven straight UH points, including a three-pointer and highlight reel dunk on consecutive possessions to get the 'Bows back in the game.
UH trailed 60-58 with less than three minutes left, but the 'Bows went on to score six unanswered points snatch the game from the Miners (8-3).
UH sealed the game with a cluth layup up point guard Drew Buggs as the shot clock expired to give the 'Bows a 64-60 lead with just 37 seconds left.
Buggs finished the game with nine points and eight assists The 'Bows and the Miners, former long-time members of the Western Athletic Conference, met for the first time in 14 years, with UH beating UTEP for the first time in their last five meetings.
UH continues to hold court at home, improving to 8-1 at the Stan Sheriff Center.