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Despite Losing Lead, Vulcan Men Recover for OT Win

January 4, 2015, 3:45 PM HST
* Updated January 4, 3:47 PM
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A 20-point lead was not safe in the hands of the University of Hawai’i at Hilo men’s basketball team Saturday night against Dixie State, but a game-tying basket in regulation and a dominant start to overtime were enough to continue the Vulcans’ winning ways.

UH-Hilo knocked off the Red Storm 83-75 in overtime to win its second consecutive game over a top-tier PacWest Conference opponent.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder in the two years with this team than tonight,” said UH-Hilo head coach GE Coleman. “A lesser team, giving up a 20-point lead and going into overtime or down by two, I think would’ve folded. I thought we showed a ton of confidence and poise and just found a way.”

UH-Hilo (6-5 overall, 2-3 PacWest) seemed to click in the first half, even without the services of leading scorer Tre Johnson for a large chunk of time due to foul trouble. Working through forward Darius Johnson-Wilson, the offense flowed with a confidence not seen in years. The Vulcans shot 12-for-26 in the first half, hitting four treys and sinking 10 of 13 free throw attempts.

Dixie State (7-5, 4-2) had one of its worst shooting halves of the season, complicating its chances of staying in the game in the opening half. The Red Storm shot 5-for-28 from the floor, a disappointing 17.9 percent.

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You can never count out the Red Storm, a team that’s reached six straight NCAA Division II tournaments and had beaten UH-Hilo nine consecutive times prior to Saturday. The Red Storm slowly chipped away at the lead, cutting a 19-point deficit down to 10 with a 9-0 scoring run to cut the score to 53-43 with seven minutes remaining. Seven of those points came from the free throw line, as the Vulcans’ front line battled foul trouble.

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Dixie State took the lead for the first time since the opening three minutes of the game when freshman Zac Hunter hit a pair of free throws to put the Red Storm ahead 67-66 with :51 left. Randan Berinobis tied the game for UH-Hilo with a free throw with half-a-minute remaining.

Hunter returned to the free throw line and hit two more free throws to put Dixie State back on top 69-67 with :27 remaining in regulation. The Vulcans answered back the next time down, as Darnell Williams hit a runner on the right side of the key to tie the game with :03 remaining.

Both teams were depleted at the start of overtime because of foul trouble. Dixie State was without its best scorer and rebounder, Zach Robbins, who finished with just 12 points and five rebounds before being disqualified with less than eight minutes remaining. Backup post player Anthony Morris had fouled out halfway through the second half. The Vulcans were without Darius Johnson-Wilson, Dominique Campbell, and Vandyon Lockett, leaving seven players remaining in the extra session. Two of them, Maikai Gahan and Roel Marasigian, have seen a combined 10 minutes of game action prior to Saturday, and would not play in overtime.

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The Vulcans dominated the overtime session, scoring the first five points and holding the Red Storm empty in its first three possessions. UH-Hilo went 8-for-8 from the free throw line to put the game away.

Tre Johnson, reigning PacWest Co-Player of the Week, scored 21 points and grabbed six rebounds to lead the Vulcans. Yevgeniy Dyachanko added 16 points off of the bench and went 8-for-8 from the free throw line. Also in double-figures were Lockett with 14 points, Johnson Wilson had 12, and Williams scored 11.

Mason Sawyer avoided fouling out and led the Red Storm with 21 points and three treys.

UH-Hilo looks to continue its winning ways with a matchup against Notre Dame de Namur on Monday at the UHH Gymnasium. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Dixie State 18 51 6 – 75

Hawai’i-Hilo 38 31 14 – 83

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