IRVINE, Calif.  –  The University of Hawaii men's basketball team rallied in the second half, but ultimately couldn't overcome a deep halftime hole in a 67-56 loss to UC Irvine  Saturday night at the Bren Events Center.
The Anteaters, who rank seventh nationally in field goal percentage defense, flexed their defensive muscle in the first half holding UH to just 25 percent shooting. That allowed UCI to build a 15-point lead at the break. UH cut the deficit to six points on a pair of occasions in the second half, but could get no closer.
With its seventh straight win, UC Irvine (21-5, 8-1 BWC) maintained sole possession of first place in the Big West and completed a regular-season sweep of the 'Bows. UH (14-9, 5-4), meanwhile, dropped to fourth in the league standings.
Three of the previous four meetings between UH and UCI were decided by one point, including a overtime classic in Honolulu on Jan. 23. This one was not nearly as close as UC Irvine led from wire-to-wire. It was a just a 13-11 game midway through the first half, but the Anteaters went on a 15-3 run to build a double-digit lead. When Evan Leonard hit a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer, UCI took a 33-18 lead into the locker room.
UH opened the second half with a 10-2 run and got within 52-46 on a Drammeh three-pointer with 7:19 left. But the Anteaters scored six straight points to push the lead back to double-digits and never looked back.
For the second straight game, UH took care of the ball with just nine turnovers. The Bows also were also again efficient from three-point land, going 9-of-20.  But the Anteaters held UH to just 35 percent shooting overall and were superior on the boards with a 40-28 advantage.
Jack Purchase and Sheriff Drammeh each scored 11 points for UH, while Drew Buggs added eight points and nine assists. With a trio of three-pointers, Purchase surpassed Predrag Savovic for second all-time at UH in three-pointers with 179 and is just one shy of Zane Johnson's record of 180.
The Rainbow Warriors will now return home for a pair of games beginning with a contest versus Cal Poly on Thursday, Feb. 14. Tipoff is at 7:00 p.m. at the Stan Sheriff Center.