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UC Davis completes tournament sweep of Hawaii teams

Mar. 16—The Hawaii basketball team's brave-hearted comeback ended in heartbreak.

HENDERSON, NEV.—The Hawaii basketball team's brave-hearted comeback ended in heartbreak.

Down by 19 points early in the second half, the Rainbow Warriors closed within a point in the final seconds before falling 68-65 to UC Davis in Friday night's semifinal round of the Big West Tournament at the Dollar Loan Center. The second-seeded Aggies face No. 4 Long Beach State in today's championship game.

The'Bows inched to 66-62 in the final minute. Reserve point guard JoVon McClanahan, just a month recovered from a shoulder injury, drove the lane and, off a spin move, banked in a short jumper while being fouled by Ade Adebayo. McClanahan's free throw cut the deficit to 66-65 with 27.8 seconds to play.

"We were in the double bonus, so anything at the rim was going to be a good shot for us, " McClanahan said. "I just made a strong move. We didn't have much time. I didn't look for an and-1. I was just going up strong trying to make an attempt, and it went in."

Then UH's Noel Coleman leaped to intercept Ty Johnson's pass at midcourt with 22 seconds to go.

UH got the ball to McClanahan, who worked the clock down and then attempted a pull-up jumper from about 12 feet. The ball did not fall.

"I thought it was in, " McClanahan said. "That's just basketball."

UH's Justin McKoy grabbed the rebound, but only after fouling Elijah Pepper with 1.2 seconds left.

"When he was going down, my heart was kind of down in my stomach a little bit, " Pepper said of McClanahan's shot. "I thought it might have gone in. Then when I saw it come off, I was just getting ready to go up. I got pushed in the back and I was able to get the foul call there."

Pepper sank both free throws to complete his 17-point second half.

UH's inbounds pass from McKoy to McClanahan was deflected and then caught out of bounds with less than a second remaining. UCD then inbounded to end the game—and the'Bows' season. Or maybe not. UH athletic director Craig Angelos said he would pursue the possibility of the'Bows playing in the CBI in Daytona, Fla., in two weeks.

UH, which started league play at 2-6, won nine of the next 12 to secure the tournament's third seed. The'Bows beat Cal State Northridge in Thursday's second round to advance to the semifinal.

But the'Bows struggled in the starts of both halves. The Aggies raced to a 22-6 lead, with seven of their points coming on fast breaks. The'Bows missed their first six 3-point attempts, a drought that ended with reserve forward Akira Jacobs' shot with 4 :44 left in the first half.

"I thought they set a tone to start the game with their defense, with their pressure, with their aggressiveness, " UCD coach Jim Les said of his Aggies. "Hawaii's a good team. We knew they were going to keep coming. We knew on this journey it was not going to be easy."

All the momentum the'Bows accumulated in cutting their deficit to 31-29 at the intermission was vaporized with a cold opening to the second half. The Aggies scored 17 of the first 19 points to boost their lead to 48-31 with 13 :56 to play.

The'Bows' cold starts were magnified by a hot Pepper, who finished with 25 points. Pepper eluded Tom Beattie for a jumper from the corner. With Juan Munoz pressing him at the top of the key, Pepper stepped back and swished a 3. He also scored on a running hook.

And while Johnson added 12 points on dribble bursts, Kane Milling loosened the'Bows' defense with outside shooting and drives. Milling had 14 points.

"It starts with Pepper and Ty, but (Milling has ) been a solid player for a long time for their program, " Ganot said. "That's who I think should get more credit."

But Les cautioned that the'Bows would continue to fight. Munoz buried three 3s, Beattie played with floor-burn hustle, and McKoy helped starting center Bernardo da Silva in the post. Already without 7-foot-1 Mor Seck, who suffered a torn ACL in January, backup post Harry Rouhliadeff was unavailable after suffering an injury falling backward on Thursday. Jacobs, a freshman who played the four when McKoy moved to center, hit two 3s.

"We knew there was going to be no quit, " Les said. "They kept coming. They made plays. We weren't always as sharp over 40 minutes. I give a lot of credit to Hawaii and that group."

Pepper said during the'Bows' comeback, the Aggies recalled their focus technique.

"We meditate before games and we look back to that, " Pepper said. "We call it 'find your beach.' Just relax. Live in the moment. And just realize there are more possessions to be played."

Unfortunately for the'Bows, there was not enough time.