Richardson’s Overtime Three Sinks Hawaii
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by Josh Pacheco
HONOLULU – The University of Hawai`i Rainbow Warriors had never beaten Illinois in six previous tries before Friday night.
Despite holding a 16 point lead early in the second half, Hawai`i couldn’t change the trend.
Illinois guard D.J. Richardson drained a buzzer-beating three point shot in overtime to defeat the Rainbow Warriors 78-77 in front of over 7,500 fans at the Stan Sheriff Center, sending the crowd home stunned.
The Fighting Illini was dominated the entire way, especially along the front line. But, guard play neutralized Hawaii’s advantage up front, let by Brandon Paul and Tracy Abrams. Abrams gave Illinois their first lead with 2:59 remaining in regulation by hitting a shot in the lane against a spread-out defense.
Both teams would trade the lead up to the final possession of the second half. Hawai`i inbounded the basketball with :03 remaining to big man Vander Joaquim, who penetrated and pulled up for a 10-foot jump shot that hit all net to the the game at 66.
In the Angolan center’s second start, he produced his second double-double of the season. He finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds, with his only weakness coming from the charity stripe, where he shot 4-of-9.
Joaquim’s magical night continued in the extra period. After both teams traded three point baskets, Joaquim stroked a trey at the top of the arc to give Hawaii a 72-69 lead. It was his second three pointer of the game and the season. His jumper in the paint extended the lead to five with 2:40 remaining in overtime.
Illinois (3-0, 0-0 Big Ten) battled back with the long range jump shot. Richardson hit a three to cut the deficit to two with 2:15 left, and got as close as one point with :53 remaining in overtime when Abrams hit one of two free throws. Hawai`i would have an opportunity to stretch their lead to three with seven seconds remaining, but Jace Tavita, like many on the Hawai`i squad, struggled to deliver from the free throw line, hitting one of two free throws to extend the lead to 78-76.
After an Illinois time out, the Fighting Illini raced down the floor and, as Hawai`i coach Gib Arnold said after the game, caught his defense out of position, leaving Richardson open for a three-pointer in the left corner that swished through. Initially, the officials waved off the basket before going to replay, which determined that the ball left Richardson’s hands with two-tenths of a second remaining on the clock.
Richardson, like many of his teammates, was held without a field goal in the first half, but finished the game with 16 points on 5-of-14 shooting, including 4-of-12 from beyond the arc. He also gathered six rebounds.
His fellow guards, Abrams and Paul, battled foul trouble and poor outside shooting for most of the game. They still managed to combine for 47 of their team’s points and seven three point shots.
All three of Illinois’ starting guards made up for a poor performance from their front court. Illinois was out-rebounded 51-31 on the night, including 21 to eight on the offensive glass. No post player for Illinois hit a field goal until just over four minutes elapsed in the second half.
Free throws doomed Hawai`i in an otherwise brilliant performance against a major conference opponent. Arnold’s squad shot 17-of-31 from the foul line, just under 55 percent. In the second half and overtime, Hawai`i shot only 9-for-17 from the free throw line.
The tough finish negates the home team’s strong start. Hawai`i shot 48 percent from the field in the first half while dominating the battle of the boards by a two-to-one margin. Hawai`i also outscored Illinois in the paint 20-8. Defensively, they held Illinois to poor outside shooting, with the Fighting Illini shooting 29.6 percent (8-for-27) from the field. Two treys from Paul helped keep Illinois in striking distance, but outside of Paul and Abrams, no one else hit a field goal in the opening 20 minutes.
Hawai`i (3-1, 0-0 Big West) guard Brandon Spearman, who grew up in Chicago and was not recruited to play at Illinois, took out his personal frustration on his hometown school. In 44 minutes, Spearman scored 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds with three assists, season highs in both categories.
Nebraska transfer Christian Standhardinger scored 12 points and Hauns Brereton added 10 for Hawai`i, who faces North Dakota on Tuesday night at the Stan Sheriff Center. Tip time is just after 7:00 p.m.