ANAHEIM, Calif. — Hawaii head coach Gib Arnold said that one final foul was not what lost the quarterfinal game for the Rainbow Warriors but one of the best free throw-shooting teams in the country might beg to differ.
Up by three on No. 5 seed Cal State Northridge in the final 20 seconds of overtime in the quarterfinal round of the Big West Conference Championship Tournament, No.4-seed Hawaii twice fouled the Matadors. While a jumper from Stephen Maxwell with 12 seconds left didn’t help the ‘Bows’ cause, it was a series of puzzling moves that led to the Matadors winning 87-84.
It was the Matadors’ first Big West Tournament win since 2011 and first overtime Tournament win since winning the 2009 Championship.
"Real tough for us to swallow," Arnold said. "These guys didn’t deserve to end their season that way… They left it all on the floor and usually that translates into a win but tonight, it didn’t."
It was an exciting game from start to finish with dramatic momentum swings and the overtime period lived up to its billing with clutch shots traded back and forth.
Big West Tournament: UCSB stunned; LBSU defeats CSUF in first round
But with 19 seconds left, Quincy Smith fouled Josh Greene, who is so confident in his free-throw shooting he even reminded his coach, Reggie Theus, that he is the sixth-best free-throw shooter in the country.
"We wanted to foul him before he could get another three off, but we wanted to foul him under 10 seconds and we fouled him a little too early on that," Arnold said. "We wanted to be aggressive on getting the ball back. Quincy made an aggressive move on the ball and he wasn’t trying to foul at that time."
Greene hit both free throws, as he knew he would, cutting the deficit to two.
"I wasn’t surprised but I knew they knew I wanted to go for a three," Greene said.
"They got the ball in the right person’s hands," Theus said.
After Maxwell hit a jumper, Christian Standhardinger fouled Tre Hale-Edmerson with seven seconds left. He iced both shots, and Brandon Spearman missed a three that would have put the game into double-overtime.
"That wasn’t the game," Arnold said. "We had plenty of chances to win it before and after that."
Hawaii ended a banner season at 20-11, while Northridge (16-17) took another step in the building process. The Matadors will face No. 3 seed Long Beach State Friday night.
"This is a huge win for our program in general," Theus said. "We have the tools to do it with, but we have to do it collectively. We are on track to build this program the way it should be built and that is through hard work and effort."
No. 1 UC Irvine 63, No. 8 UC Riverside 43
The top seed played like the top seed, eliminating UC Riverside (10-21) in the third game of the day. It was a gritty, defensive game and now the Anteaters (23-10) will play the other highly-touted defensive team in the Big West in Cal Poly.
"They’re a team that plays an effective style for tournament basketball and i think we are too," said UC Irvine head coach Russell Turner. "But I don’t think any matchup is better or worse, Cal Poly is the next team that we get a chance to play."
Irvine freshman center Mamadou Ndiaye blocked four shots in the game to give him 98 on the season and breaking the Big West single-season record of 95 by Michael Olowokandi.
"I’m happy that he gets the recognition that will come with breaking that record," Turner said. "That’s a heck of an accomplishment. He has gotten better going to get better and I imagine people will stop going at him because he’s really hard to get the ball over."
Irvine needs only two more wins before matching the program’s previous high of 25.