The University of Hawaiʻi men’s basketball team (11-7, 2-2 Big West Conference) kicked off its four-game home stand with a heartbreaking overtime loss against UC Irvine (16-5, 4-1 BWC), 75-74.
The trio of senior forward Jack Purchase (18 points), junior forward Zigmars Raimo (16 points) and junior guard Leland Green (10 points) combined to have a 44-point performance against the Big West Conference leader.
The opening minutes set the tone for the first half, as Raimo scored the first points of the game. Both teams were playing physical defense, but the ‘Bows found a way to shine through, largely thanks to the offensive excellence of Purchase.
Purchase hit four 3-pointers early on, then made a layup underneath the basket at 12:40 to lead 11-9. The ‘Bows finished the first half, 29-23, behind Purchase’s 14 first half points.
The Anteaters scored six points in the paint in the first two minutes of the second half, tying the game at 29-29.
Junior guard Eddie Stansberry scored his first points of the game on a corner three, putting the ‘Bows up 32-29. Raimo went on to score the next four points in the paint, eating up the UC Irvine interior defense.
One of the surprises from the game was the performance of Green, who gave the ‘Bows a spark off of the bench with 10 points.
“He was the igniter of the separation, he’s a heck of a player and a high level, he was huge tonight for us,” head coach Eran Ganot said.
The game went down to the wire as the Anteaters were able to get the ‘Bows in foul trouble and slowly chip away at the lead.
UC Irvine was able the get the lead down to 60-59 with under two minutes to play.
After a missed 3-pointer by sophomore guard Drew Buggs at 1:11, UCI’s Evan Leonard shot a 3-pointer to tie the game up at 62-62.
Senior guard Sheriff Drammeh had a chance to seal the ‘Bows’ win, but he missed a long 3-point shot as the game headed into overtime.
Buggs made a layup at 4:44 to start the OT period, 66-64. UCI's Max Hazzard responded back with a jumper to tie the game at 66-66.
Drammeh hit a 3-pointer that put the ‘Bows up by one point with 13.1 seconds left.
With 10 seconds left, Hazzard made a jumper to seal UCI’s win, 75-74. The ‘Bows had two chances to win the game: a missed three by Purchase and a missed follow-up tip shot by Buggs.
The home crowd was completely stunned, even the man who took the last clean shot.
“The shot felt good, I thought it was going in,” Purchase said of his potential game winning three.
Despite the loss, Ganot had nothing but praise for his squad who fought the whole game.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our team, I’m as proud of our team all year, it’s something weird to say after a loss, this was just something we had to go through,” he said. “We’re better today than we were earlier."
The players are taking the high road, and are looking ahead to the rest of the season.
“We made some mistakes but now we have to watch the tape and move on from this,” Raimo said.
The ‘Bows had nine different players on the court throughout the course of the game, including four off the bench.
“All of them played pretty well even though Irvine was trying to wear us down, and I don’t think we were worn down,” Ganot said.
The ‘Bows' next game will be against UC Davis on Jan. 26 at 7 p.m. at the Stan Sheriff Center.