#15 BYUH Stunned on Johnson’s Game Winner
University of Hawai’i at Hilo men’s basketball coach GE Coleman has been searching for ways to close out games for over 13 months since he debuted on the job in November of 2013.
On Saturday night at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium, Coleman’s Vulcans not only finished, but may have taken a big step in reviving a program looking to rebuild the support of the Hilo community.
Tre Johnson’s tap-in with just over one second on the clock gave UH-Hilo an 81-79 lead, and his free throw helped cap an 82-79 upset over 15th-ranked Brigham Young University-Hawai’i.
“It really is a belief system and believing you are going to win,” said Coleman after the game. “I thought we really did the best job out of timeouts, dead ball situations, and just executing down the stretch. That last play to Tre just showed that.”
The final play came on an baseline inbound underneath the Vulcans’ basket. In a play seen more frequently this college basketball season, the entry pass was lobbed right near the goal to Johnson, who tipped it in with two hands and was fouled to give the Vulcans the lead.
“Coach drew it up,” said Johnson after the game. “We’ve been running that play every day in practice and we knew they were gonna bump me. D Will (Darnell Williams) told me he was gonna throw it as high as he could and I had to just go up and get it. We made eye contact, he threw it up and I went up there and got it.”
Johnson finished with a game-high 28 points. He shot 9-for-13 from the floor and 10-for-14 from the charity stripe.
BYU-Hawai’i (8-1 overall, 2-1 PacWest) led by as much as 11 points in the game and had several chances to break the game open, but the Vulcans stood their ground. The game turning moment was UH-Hilo’s 14-0 run early in the second half, turning that 11 point deficit into a four point lead with under 14 minutes to play.
Johnson scored six points during that run, but the key moment came when forward Darius Johnson-Wilson, not known for his outside shooting touch, canned a three with under 15 minutes remaining to give the Vulcans a 55-53 lead.
Yevgeniy Dyachenko was a key contributor off of the bench, draining four three-pointers, scoring 18 points, and grabbing five rebounds in 28 minutes.
“Yev did a great job,” Coleman said in his praise of the second-year senior. “Looking back at that HPU game, I probably didn’t play Yev at home as much as I should have in the second half, and he responded from it. He didn’t pout. He didn’t sulk. He just worked hard all week and that’s a credit to him.”
The size of the Seasiders wrecked havoc on the Vulcans in multiple ways. Jordan Stone, a 6-foot-10 transfer from Utah State, and Ian Harward, a 6-foot-11 transfer from BYU, both made it difficult for UH-Hilo to score inside. They also were difficult to defend, putting the opponents into deep foul trouble. Dominique Campbell fouled out, and both Johnson and Johnson-Wilson each survived with four fouls.
BYU-Hawai’i had opportunities to win the game late. Senior Luke Aston hit a fading contested three-pointer with 52 seconds left to put the Seasiders on top 78-77. Darnell Williams answered with a basket of his own to put the Vulcans ahead 79-78 with 28 seconds left to go.
Back on the other end, Robbie Mitchell, a perfect free throw shooter entering the game, missed his second one of the night, the back end of a two-shot foul, to keep the game tied at 79-79. The Seasiders entered the game with the best free throw shooting percentage in the country, but shot only 15-for-27 (55.6 percent) for the game.
Daniel Berger, a 6-foot-8 matchup nightmare at guard, led BYU-Hawai’i with 18 points and five rebounds. Aston added 15 points and three treys off of the bench. The Seasiders shot 7-for-16 from beyond the arc, but were out-rebounded 33-29.
Williams contributed for UH-Hilo with 13 points and four assists. Johnson-Wilson added 11 points and seven rebounds.
The win for UH-Hilo was the first against a ranked team since 1998 when the Vulcans, under then second-year coach Jeff Law, defeated seventh-ranked Midwestern State.
UH-Hilo (5-5, 1-3) will return to the court in 2015 against Dixie State. The PacWest matchup will tip at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 3 at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium.
BYU-Hawai’i – 48 31 – 79
Hawai’i-Hilo 38 44 – 82