Hawaii 72, Idaho 70

Hawaii coach Gib Arnold felt his team rediscovered its resolve

when it took Utah State down to the wire in the season finale just

two days after getting routed at home by Idaho.

So to make sure his Rainbow Warriors had their legs for the

Western Athletic Conference tournament, Arnold practiced a total of

75 minutes between Saturday’s loss and Thursday’s conference

tourney opener.

Turned it to be the perfect approach.

Hauns Brereton hit a 15-foot baseline jumper with 3.2 seconds

left, and Hawaii rallied from seven points down in the final 6

minutes to beat Idaho 72-70 in the Western Athletic Conference

quarterfinals Thursday.

The sixth-seeded Rainbow Warriors (16-15) trailed 64-57 with

6:15 left but then outscored the Vandals 15-6 the close out the

victory. Hawaii won despite playing without second-leading scorer

Zane Johnson and a week after losing by 19 at home to the Vandals.

It was Hawaii’s first victory since Feb. 14 against New Orleans and

its first WAC tournament win since 2005.

”We were a little wounded, a little down, but these guys

rallied together,” Arnold said. ”They earned it. We struggled for

three weeks. It wasn’t easy, it never should be easy. But we’ve

still got a lot of basketball left in us.”

Hawaii will face second-seeded New Mexico State in the

semifinals Friday night.

Vander Joaquim led Hawaii with 20 points including a key putback

with 29.5 seconds left and later stole the desperation inbound pass

on Idaho’s final effort to pull even. Brereton finished with 17 and

freshman guard Shaquille Stokes also scored 17.

Stokes tried to play the role of hero for the Warriors. He drove

aggressively toward the basket as the final seconds ticked away,

only to get stripped as Idaho’s defense collapsed. The loose ball

bounded right to Brereton on the baseline, who rattled in the

game-winner.

”Shaq left me open in the corner. Fortunately it went in,”

Brereton said.

Kyle Barone led Idaho (18-13) with 19 points, but was held to

just five in the second half. Stephen Madison added 15 and Landon

Tatum scored 12 for the Vandals, who had won seven of eight coming

into the tournament and was the only WAC team to defeat regular

season champion Nevada.

Yet the Vandals are headed home and have yet to reach the

semifinals of the WAC tournament.

”I thought we had seized control of the game. We had climbed

the hill. But Hawaii made some great plays down the stretch,”

Idaho coach Don Verlin said.

Idaho seemed in control after a 3-point barrage that erased an

11-point deficit early in the second half. Three consecutive

3-pointers capped the Vandals 17-2 run, which included Madison’s 3

with 14:50 left that gave Idaho its first lead since the opening

moments of the game. Tatum added another 3 and the Vandals led

45-41. Hawaii retook the lead at 46-45 but on the next possession

Hawaii’s Joston Thomas was called for his fourth foul and given a

technical foul for his reaction, giving him his fifth foul.

Thomas was missed on the inside and Idaho eventually built its

lead to seven after Madison scored six straight points – including

a pair of free throws after Hawaii coach Arnold was given a

technical and had to be restrained by his assistants after a

non-call.

But that’s when Hawaii’s final push started. The Warriors likely

should have led but missed 4 of 6 free throw attempts. Still, Idaho

was sloppy with possessions and Stokes’ 3 with 2:56 left pulled

Hawaii even at 64 all. Brereton’s basket gave Hawaii the lead at

66-65 and his two free throws pushed the advantage to three.

Idaho’s Deremy Geiger scored on a difficult layup while being

fouled with 50 seconds left and the three-point play pulled Idaho

even.

Joaquim scored on his putback and Barone scored for Idaho before

Brereton’s game-winner. Brereton added 11 rebounds and the Warriors

committed just seven turnovers, half their season average of

14.

”Those kids stepped up and took the challenge,” Arnold said.

”In the second half we jumped out and we hit the shots when we

needed to. They played hard.”

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