Online Extra: Vuls surprise Seasiders


Tribune-Herald

University of Hawaii at Hilo men’s basketball coach Jeff Law wants to bottle up every last detail from Saturday night against BYU-Hawaii.

The breakthrough victory was that refreshing. And savory in so many ways.

CJ Brown scored 22 points and nailed a go-ahead 3-pointer with 23 seconds remaining as the Vulcans stormed back to beat the Seasiders 77-76 before a lively crowd at UHH Gym.

The Vulcans (5-13, 3-7 Pacific West Conference) have had their share of near-misses and frustrations this season, but undersized UHH finished the game on a 17-6 run to earn what its coach was quick to confirm as the best win of the season.

“Coming away with a hard-fought victory, that hasn’t happened a lot this year,” Law said. “We’ve been going through a lot, but guys answered the bell. This was the best one.”

Senior forward Kiel Myers came off the bench to score 14 points on 5-of-5 shooting, including four 3-pointers, and senior forward Mike Melonas added 12 points and a team-high six rebounds.

“Proud of everybody. Everyone paid attention and listened,” Law said. “They played hard. They did some dumb things, but we were able to pull one out.

“For those guys to fight through what they’ve fighting through says a lot for their character. Tonight was a huge game for us.”

And the win wasn’t just big for morale sake. Don’t look now, but UHH’s second straight victory puts it within striking distance in the PacWest playoff race. The Vulcans are a game and a half behind Notre Dame de Namur (4-5) for the sixth and final spot at the league tournament.

Guard Taylor Maughan led the Seasiders (9-8, 6-3) with 14 points and 6-foot-7 forward Bracken Funk added 12 points with nine rebounds. But BYU-Hawaii missed its last four shots from the field and committed five turnovers after Solomone Wolfgramm’s 3-pointer put the Seasiders ahead 70-60 with 6:14 left to play.

UHH, which led by as many as nine in the first half, chipped away at the free-throw line. A 3-pointer by Brown cut the lead to three, and his jumper tied the score at 74-74 with 1:09 remaining.

Guard Pablo Coro hit two free throws to put the Seasiders back in front on their next possession, but they then committed a key mistake on the defensive end — they gave Brown space to shoot from beyond the arc.

“He had room, Not sure why,” Law said. “But he answered.”

Junior Ale tried to drive the lane for a potential game-winning shot, but Brown came up with the ball, much to the delight of an amped-up crowd of 568.

“Crowd was awesome,” Law said. “Atmosphere was special. Team had been struggling. We have to take this taste and keep on doing what we did tonight.”

With their newfound momentum, the Vulcans will gear up for a visit to Hawaii Pacific (6-10, 3-6) next Saturday.

Brown was 7 of 11 from the field for UHH, which shot 49.1 percent. BYU-Hawaii shot 47.2 percent and used its superior height to hold a 36-29 rebounding advantage.

Law’s new-look starting lineup featured Brown, Derek Owens (nine points), Lucas Swanson (nine points), Ross-Oxone Mavungu and Brandon Thomas. But Melonas, who’s started 14 games this season, Myers and Mychael Hearn (13 starts) each played at least 23 minutes off the bench. Hearn finished with five points, as did senior guard Paul Bautasa. Myers grabbed six rebounds.

“It’s been a tough week for Kiel and Mychael. Tough practices,” Law said. “But they’ve accepted their roles.”

BYUH 39 37 —76

UHH 38 39 —77

 

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