The University of Hawai'i men's basketball team made it a clean sweep, joining their women's counterpart by capturing its first Big West Conference Tournament title after a 64-60 victory over Long Beach State, Saturday night at the Honda Center.
Hours after the Rainbow Wahine booked their ticket to the "Big Dance" by winning the women's title game, the Rainbow Warriors (27-5) advanced to their fifth NCAA Tournament, making their first appearance since 2002. It marked the first time since 1994 that both the UH men's and women's teams reached the NCAA Tournament in the same year.
Senior guard Roderick Bobbitt sealed the win with two free throws with 1.7 seconds left after a frantic final few seconds in which the referees reviewed two ball of out bounds plays and added time back on the clock. When the clock reached 0:00, a wild celebration ensued which included UH fans storming the court in celebration.
Tournament MVP Aaron Valdes scored a team-high 14 points with five rebounds while all-tourney selection Stefan Jankovic added 10 points and four rebounds despite being plagued with foul trouble throughout the game. Bobbitt, who also missed most of the first half due to foul trouble, finished with seven points.
UH avenged two earlier losses to the Beach, the only Big West team the 'Bows did not defeat this season. Hawai'i recorded its 27th
victory, tying the program's single-season record for most wins and captured its fourth all-time conference tournament title.
With Bobbitt and Jankovic sitting for much of the first half, reserves Niko Filipovich, Stefan Jovanovic and Sheriff Drammef logged extensive minutes while maintaining UH's lead. Filipovich ended the half with a driving lay-up as the 'Bows built a 31-25 lead.
Hawai'i extended its lead to double digits in the second half and Drammeh's second trey put the 'Bows on top 44-32. Soon after, LBSU leading scorer Nick Faust picked up his fourth foul but that seemed to inspire the Beach, who used a 15-5 run to pull within two at 49-47.
But the 'Bows hung tough to hold on to their lead until Faust nailed a three to tie it at 56 with under four minutes to play but on UH's ensuing possession, Faust picked up his fifth foul. Moments later, Jankovic's long three put UH back on top at 61-58. Travis Hammonds' putback pulled the 49ers to within one but he fouled out on UH's next possession.
Mike Thomas converted one of two free throws for a 62-60 lead with just over a minute left. The Beach had two chances to take the lead but a three-pointer by Noah Blackwell rimed out and Justin Bibbins' attempt rattled the rim in the waning seconds. In the fight for the rebound, the referees awarded the ball to UH before going to the monitor to review. The called stood and on the ensuing inbounds attempt, Bobbitt was fouled setting up his final free throws.
The 'Bows will now await word on where they will be sent during Sunday's Selection Show.
Michael Bryson, UC Santa Barbara
Luke Nelson, UC Irvine
Nick Faust, Long Beach State
Justin Bibbins, Long Beach State
Stefan Jankovic, Hawai'i
Aaron Valdes, Hawai'i (MVP)