Jankovic, Bobbitt lead Hawaii into Big West title game
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Stefan Jankovic scored 24 points, Roderick Bobbitt added 21, and top-seeded Hawaii beat No. 4 UC Santa Barbara 88-76 in the Big West semifinals Friday night.
The Rainbow Warriors (26-5) secured a spot in the conference final for the second straight year. They will face the winner of No. 2 UC Irvine and No. 3 Long Beach State in the championship game Saturday.
Bobbitt hit four big 3-pointers to lead the way. He hit a three as time expired in the first half to give Hawaii a 37-34 halftime lead, and followed with three quick 3-pointers in a 21-3 Rainbow Warriors’ run to open the second half.
Hawaii led by as many as 21 in the second half and snapped the Gauchos’ nine-game win streak. Michael Bryson scored 22 points and Gabe Vincent had 17 to lead UCSB (18-13).
The Gauchos hung tough early, overcoming an early double-digit deficit with a furious 23-9 run to force a 34-34 tie.
Bobbitt swung the momentum back Hawaii’s way though, sinking a long 3-pointer from the left wing at the buzzer to give the Rainbow Warriors a 37-34 edge going into the locker room.
Bobbitt stayed hot out of the break, nailing three 3-pointers in the first four minutes to lead Hawaii’s 21-3 run. The surge put the Rainbow Warriors up 58-37 with 14 minutes to go, their largest lead of the night, and all but slammed the door on the Gauchos upset hopes.
UCSB rallied some, but never got back within three possessions.
Aaron Valdes finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists for Hawaii. Reserve Alex Hart hit three 3-pointers and finished with 13 points for the Gauchos.
Hawaii: The Rainbow Warriors shot 52 percent (26 of 50) from the field, including 43 percent (9 of 21) from 3-point range..They won their 25th game of the season in the first round, giving coach Eran Ganot the conference record for most wins by a first-year coach. He surpassed the 24 wins by Hall of Famers Jerry Tarkanian (1969-70) and Lute Olsen (1973-74) in their first years at Long Beach State.
UCSB: The Gauchos shot 30 percent (8 of 27) from 3-point range and 59 percent (16 of 27) from the free throw line..They won the conference tournament in 2012 but haven’t been back to the title game since.Bob Williams is in his 18th season at UCSB, making him the longest tenured head coach west of the Mississippi.
Hawaii: Plays in the Big West Tournament championship game Saturday
UCSB: Awaits a possible post-season bid.