HONOLULU -- Garrett Jefferson's only basket of the game, a teardrop floater from the free throw line, found the bottom of the basket as time expired Thursday night, lifting host Hawaii to a, 90-88, victory over Cal State Fullerton in front of 5,198 fans at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu.
Senior D.J. Seeley brought the Titans (7-6 overall, 1-1 in Big West Conference play) even with a three-pointer with six seconds to play, rolling it in off the back iron after Manroop Clair made a pair of free throws to give the Warriors (8-5, 2-0) the three-point lead.
That's when Jefferson took the game into his own hands, driving the length of the court and lofting a shot with 0.2 seconds remaining for the game winner.
The Titans, just 1-of-4 from the line in the final minute and 6-of-11 for the game, had led by as many as 11 points with 5:28 to play before Hawaii offense caught fire, closing the game on 21-8 run en route to the win. Four-consecutive three-pointers -- the last by Christian Standhardinger with 38.2 to play -- gave the Warriors the 85-84 advantage and Brandon Jawato, who hit two of the three-pointers during the rally, made 1-of-2 from the line with 20 seconds left for a two point Warriors advantage and set the stage for the frantic final seconds.
Senior Kwame Vaughn scored a team-high 26 points on 10-of-16 from the floor for his sixth, 20-point game of the season, while Seeley added 22 points in the loss. Senior Sammy Yeager scored 15 points before fouling out with 20 seconds to play while junior Deuce Johnson added a career-high 14 points and six rebounds -- all on the offensive glass.
Freshman forward Isaac Fotu scored a game-high 29 points -- 20 of those in the first half -- on 13-of-16 from the field to go with nine rebounds to pace Hawaii while Standhardinger (15 points), Brandon Spearman (15), and Jawato (11) were also in double figures for the Warriors, who shot just over 56 percent from the floor for the game -- including almost 63 percent in the second half. Vander Joaquim, who entered the game averaging 15.3 ppg, was held to just six points on the night, but grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds to lead all players.
Hawaii jumped out to an 8-2 lead and led by six points on two occasions before the Titans began to chip away. A three-pointer by Yeager tied the game at 16-16 with 10:51 to play in the first and Seeley answered with a three-pointer of his own for Fullerton's first lead of the game. The Warriors briefly regained the lead at 20-19 with 7:45 to play and stood even at 24-24 almost two minutes later, but an 11-2 burst by the Titans put them up nine, 35-26, with 3:10 to play.
A 9-0 run brought Hawaii back, tying the game at 35-35 with 1:54 to play and back-to-back baskets by Spearman (a three-pointer) and Fotu put the home side up three. However, a three-pointer by Seeley knotted things up at the break as the two teams headed to the locker room tied at 40.
Fullerton opened up a six-point lead to start the second period thanks to a 10-2 run before the two teams traded baskets over the next four minutes with the Titans never leading by more than five points. A 13-4 spurt by Fullerton put the Titans up 10 with 11:21 to play and, after the Warriors closed to within four points, another 9-2 burst capped by a Vaughn three-pointer gave Fullerton its largest lead of the game at 80-69.
The Titans shot 51 percent from the field for the contest and collected 14 steals on the night, turning 20 Hawaii turnovers into 31 points.
Cal State Fullerton looks to rebound on Saturday night (Jan. 5), traveling to Cal State Northridge for a 7:05 p.m. tip off from The Matadome.