(HAWAII ATHLETICS) – The University of Hawai'i men's basketball team moved into sole possession of first place in the Big West with a gritty 77-72 win over UC Davis Saturday night at the Stan Sheriff Center. UH improved to 13-5 overall and 4-1 in the Big West with its fourth straight win.
With Cal State Fullerton's loss to Long Beach State earlier in the night, the game between the 'Bows and the Aggies (12-7, 3-2 BW) became a battle for first-place. It was a competitive and contentious contest that saw three UH players foul out. The Rainbow Warriors also had to deal without having starting guard Brocke Stepteau due to injury. Despite that, UH weathered the storm for its first win over UC Davis since 2016.
Jack Purchase scored a game-high 21 points, including five free throws down the stretch to help secure the win. Leland Green, who started in place of Stepteau, also came up big with 11 points and a huge three-pointer late in the game. Sheriff Drammeh added 14 points, while Gibson Johnsonhad 11.
UH took the lead for good at the 12-minute mark of the first half and never trailed again, but it would be a battle throughout. Purchase scored 14 of his points and nailed all four of this three pointers in the first half as UH led by as many 12 points before taking a 39-35 lead into the locker room.
UC Davis scored the first four points of the second half to tie the game 39-39, but UH responded with eight straight points and led by as many as 10 points on pair of occasions in the second half. UH suffered through foul trouble late in the game and the Aggies cut the lead to just three, 66-63, with under two minutes left. However, Green drilled a three-pointer on UH's next possession and the Aggies would get no closer.
UH sealed the game on the free throw line where they scored nine of its final 11 games. For the game, UH shot 21-of-26 from the line.
UC Davis came into the game leading the league in steals and turnover margin, but Hawai'i turned the tables on them. UH forced 23 Aggies turnovers—scoring 24 points off those turnovers—while tallying a season-high 13 steals. UH also continued with its tough perimeter defense, limited UC Davis to just 3-of-19 shooting from behind the arc.
The Rainbow Warriors will conclude its four-game homestand next week when it hosts Cal State Fullerton on Saturday, Jan. 27. The game will tip at 8:00 p.m. and be part of a doubleheader with the Rainbow Wahine.