(Hawaii Athletics) -- In a hotly-contested, back-and-forth contest the University of Hawaii men's basketball team had the final say in pulling off a 70-69 win over Utah Valley Sunday at the Stan Sheriff Center. The Rainbow Warriors improved to 7-2 overall with their third straight win and seventh victory in eight home games this year.
Sheriff Drammeh poured in a career-high 20 points, including the go-ahead three-pointer with 37 seconds left to key the close win. Gibson Johnsonadded 15 points and six rebounds, while Brocke Stepteau, who hit some key baskets down the stretch, finished with a game-high seven assists
UH was also buoyed by a defensive effort that held the Wolverines (7-5) to a season-low 36 percent shooting performance. Utah Valley came into Honolulu shooting nearly 50 percent from the field, while averaging 81.3 pointers per game.
Despite its shooting woes, Utah Valley stayed in the game by going 27-of-32 from the line. A total of 54 fouls were called during the game –27 on each side.
It was a see-saw affair from start to finish. Neither team led by more than eight points and the game featured 10 ties and 19 lead changes. UH held on to a slim 36-33 lead at halftime.
The game continued to be close in the second half. A Johnson three-point play gave UH a 67-64 lead with 1:32 left but the Wolverines stormed back with four straight as a Zach Nelson bucket down low put Utah Valley back out front, 68-67, with 48 seconds left. That set the stage for Drammeh, whose fourth three-pointer of the game gave UH a 70-68 lead on the very next possesion.
After Utah Valley hit a free throw and UH missed two, the Wolverines had a pair of chances to win the game. But Connor Toolson's three-pointer was off the mark and after the Wolverines retained possession with just under two seconds left, UH stole the ensuing in-bound pass to seal the win.
Jake Toolson led Utah Valley with 18 points. Meanwhile, UH limited the team's top socrer -Akolda Manyang - to just four points, while fouling te senior center out with more than 12 minutes left in the game.
The Rainbow Warriors will now host the ninth annual Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Classic beginning on Friday, Dec. 22. UH will host No. 6 Miami in night cap of the first day of action when the teams square off at 8:00 p.m.