Vuls victory watch will include tough moments


By MATT GERHART

Tribune-Herald sports writer

Knowing full well just how much his players dislike watching game film, coach Jeff Law intends to make Monday night’s near meltdown required viewing.

“They know when we watch, we’re not going to watch the first half,” Law said. “We’re going to watch the second half.”

Either today or Thursday at practice, the University of Hawaii at Hilo will get a look at a final 15 minutes of regulation that CJ Brown could only describe as terrible. The Vulcans will witness 3-point defense that Mychael Hearn termed “really terrible.”

But if Law leaves the tape in long enough, they’ll also see Brown orchestrate a triumphant ending.

“We weren’t going to let ourselves lose,” said Brown, who scored nine of his 21 points in overtime as the Vulcans regained their composure to negate a furious Hawks’ comeback for a 91-85 victory at UHH Gym.

“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 stormed back behind a barrage of 3-pointers.

UHH (3-10, 1-4) yielded a 50-point second half and coughed up a 25-point lead but lived to tell about.

“The second half got a little scary,” 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.

The Vulcans lost halftime leads in the first two losses on the homestand, and there was a bit of an oh-no, here-we-go-again feeling starting to permeate the gym.

But 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. 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.

Disaster avoided.

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.

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.

“We were supposed to switch on every pick, but they had five guards and we got a little confused,” Hearn said. “They didn’t have a big man out there so that made it difficult for us.”

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.”

The Vuls open a four-game California road trip next Monday at Fresno Pacific. The Bay Area-visit will include a rematch with the Hawks, who could have second-leading scorer Ian Collins back in the lineup.

Brown didn’t need game film to assess where UHH needs to improve between now and then.

“Yeah, we need to work out closing out on shooters,” he said. “When we get a big lead, we tend to relax. We have to get that killer instinct. We don’t have that yet.

“We know how these teams play and we were right there with all of them. Hopefully we can keep the momentum rolling.”

Holy Names 26 50 10 —86

UHH 43 33 15—91

 

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