By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
As the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s 25-point second-half lead turned to dust amid a barrage of 3-pointers by Holy Names, there was a bit of an oh-no, here-we-go-again feeling starting to permeate through UHH Gym.
CJ Brown never noticed it, but he took it apon himself to lift it.
The senior guard scored nine of his 21 points in overtime Monday night as the Vulcans regained their composure to negate a furious Hawks’ comeback for a 91-85 victory.
“We weren’t going to let ourselves lose,” Brown said. “We might have let the lead slip, but we were not going to let ourselves lose.”
Senior forward Kiel Meyers had the hot hand early, scoring 18 of his team-high 23 points in first half as the Vulcans’ first Pacific West Conference basketball victory looked like it was going to be layup — until matters went horribly astray as the Hawks got hot from 3-point range.
UHH (3-10, 1-4) yielded a 50-point second half but lived to tell about.
“The second half got a little scary,” Mychael Hearn said. “But Coach (Jeff) Law did a good job of telling us to clear our heads and play our game. We’d been here before. Let’s finish this one out.”
Junior guard Tyler Fry scored 24 points on the strength of five 3-pointers, including a game-tying trey with 36 seconds left in the second half. Sophomore guard Richard Craig (20 points) also nailed five 3s for the Hawks (3-9, 0-5), who hit 10 of 20 from beyond the arc in the second half and seemingly had all the momentum heading to overtime after ending regulation on an astonishing 32-11 run.
Even after UHH turned it over on its final possession of regulation, Law never saw a hint of doubt in his players’ eyes as they headed to the extra session.
“I think they were focused and ready to go,” Law said. “Kind of like ‘Wow, did we did we just screw that up?’
“There are four to five seniors out there. They have to own up to what they put out on the floor.”
The veteran unit responded and started getting stops. Disaster avoided.
Just like in the first 40 minutes, UHH never trailed in the overtime. Hearn won the tip and Brown followed with a driving layup.
“It felt like they were going (good), so it was nice to get the bucket, just to set us off on the right foot in overtime,” Brown said.
Fry answered with a basket, but Paul Batausa’s 3-pointer gave UHH the lead for good. Brown converted a three-point play to push the lead to four with 2:16 left in OT, and Myers’ basket provided more breathing room. Batausa, a senior guard, finished with nine points.
Brown helped salt the game away with four free throws — he also compiled eight assists, five rebounds, five steals and no turnovers and shot 7 of 9 in 39 minutes — but Hearn said his biggest contributions were his first two points of the OT.
“Overtime is really about momentum,” said the senior guard, who finished with 14 points and a team-high seven rebounds. “We knew if we scored first, we’d have the momentum. That was a really big basket for us.”
Brandon Thomas, a 6-foot-6 junior, scored 10 points off the bench as he and the 6-6 Myers, who finished 10 of 15 from the floor, took advantage of their height advantage to combine for 25 first-half points. UHH was shooting 58.6 percent heading to halftime.
“We wanted to get the ball inside and we did early and often,” Law said.
So much so that it looked like a laugher when Mike Melonas (nine points) hit a shot to put UHH ahead 55-30 with 15:29 left to play.
But Holy Names’ smaller lineup began to flourish midway through the second half, and the Hawks — who hoisted 45 3-pointers in a loss at Chaminade on Saturday — lived up to their reputation and relied heavily on 3s. They finishing 16 of 37 from long range, taking 10 more shot from beyond the arc than inside it.
More of those shots started going in as UHH lost track of the Hawks’ shooters.
“Really terrible defense,” Hearn said. “We were supposed to switch on every pick, but they had five guards and we got a little confused. They didn’t have a big man out there so that made it difficult for us.”
As Fry and Craig found their range, so did freshmen guards Blake Watkins, who hit all four of his 3-pointers in the second half, and Joshua Crum. Each finished with 12 points. Fry grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.
Myers’ basket stopped a 6-0 run to get the lead back to 17 with 9:31 left to play, but Watkins responded with consecutive 3-pointers and Craig hit one to fuel a 13-0 run.
“When we get a big lead, we tend to relax,” Brown said. “We have to get that killer instinct. We don’t have that yet.”
UHH started making inopportune mistakes as well. Batausa slipped and fell for a traveling call, and on the next possession he threw the ball to Brown before he was ready for another turnover. On the other end, Craig sank three free throws after being fouled by Myers on a three-point attempt.
With UHH lagging, Hearn made his only 3-pointer and scored on a breakaway layup to push the lead back to 72-63 with 3:42 left to play.
But the Hawks weren’t done. Watkins got another good look from beyond the arc, and Fry followed with two more 3s, the last of which tied the game.
About the only shot out of Fry’s range was a potential game-winning heave from beyond halfcourt at the buzzer that hit the front rim.
That gave the Vulcans a chance to regroup with a fresh start, and Brown helped them make the most of it.
“CJ doesn’t surprise me at all,” Law said. “I do expect a lot from him and sometimes I put too much pressure on him. But I think the rest of the guys expect it, too.”
Holy Names 26 50 10 —86
UHH 43 33 15—91