'Bows slip past Spartans, 68-67
• Photo gallery: Hawaii vs. San Jose State basketball
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
The University of Hawai'i men's basketball team replaced a disheartening loss with a heart-pounding win.
Hiram Thompson sank two free throws with 2.1 seconds remaining to give the Rainbow Warriors a 68-67 victory over San Jose State last night.
Thompson's winning points came moments after he committed two turnovers. Adding to the drama, he hit his head on the court after being fouled in the closing seconds and needed medical attention after the game for a possible concussion.
"I remember lying there on the floor thinking this was my chance to redeem myself," Thompson said. "The team needed me at the end of the game, and I felt I let them down with those two bad passes. I felt it was an opportunity to redeem myself and get this win."
A crowd of 3,315 at the Stan Sheriff Center watched the 'Bows improve to 9-9 overall and 2-3 in the Western Athletic Conference. The Spartans dropped to 9-8 and 2-3. The teams are tied for sixth in the nine-team WAC.
"We have to give credit to our leader, Hiram," Hawai'i head coach Bob Nash said. "He drove the ball to the basket, not settling for a jump shot. He got fouled, stepped up to the foul line and made two big free throws."
The free throws capped a back-and-forth battle that featured 10 lead changes.
The Spartans took a 67-66 lead with 19.4 seconds remaining on a breakaway dunk by Chris Oakes off a Thompson turnover.
On Hawai'i's next possession, Thompson tried to force a pass to Roderick Flemings in the low post, and it was stolen by San Jose State.
After a timeout, San Jose State's Adrian Oliver missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free-throw situation with 6 seconds remaining. He entered the game with a streak of 28 consecutive made free throws, but went 3 of 6 last night.
"We should have won in that situation with Adrian at the free-throw line, or at the worst, gone into overtime," San Jose State head coach George Nessman said. "Adrian doesn't miss very often in that situation. He's a 90 percent free-throw shooter and he just didn't make it."
Hawai'i forward Brandon Adams grabbed the rebound and gave it to Thompson, who dribbled the length of the court before getting fouled on a layup attempt by Oakes.
"When I was coming down court, no one was guarding me and I saw an opening and I just attacked, looking to draw some contact," Thompson said.
Adams had his best game as a 'Bow, finishing with career-highs of 19 points and nine rebounds.
"I thought he was huge along that baseline for us," Nash said. "He was a big difference."
Jeremy Lay, making just his second start of the season, added 19 points, including five 3-pointers.
"We were winning, and then we started doing things that were just dumb, myself included," Lay said. "I think the game being close was us making ill-advised mistakes for no reason."
Thompson added 14 points and five assists, and Flemings finished with 10 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
"Rod didn't shoot the ball well, but he facilitated a lot of things for us," Nash said. "He made great decisions with the basketball."
Hawai'i led by as many as nine points early in the game, then trailed by as many as five, and then regained the lead and took a 42-39 lead at intermission.
The Spartans opened the second half with an 11-4 surge to take a 50-46 lead. It stayed close the rest of the way.
"The only thing we care about is getting the win, and tonight we got the win against a very good team," Nash said.
The 'Bows were coming off a 98-54 loss at Utah State last Monday. "It means a lot," Lay said of last night's win. "When you lose by a lot, it hits your pride."
Justin Graham led the Spartans with 21 points, and Oliver added 20.
Hawai'i played without junior guard Dwain Williams, who is mourning the death of a cousin.
The 'Bows will host New Mexico State on Thursday.