Last week, I wrote about how special this past Saturday was going to be in the basketball program’s 100th anniversary game vs UC Davis. Among the special things planned were highlights of some of the greatest games in UH basketball history. And the next time they show highlights of memorable games, this game will be included on this list.
I never expected the ending that we witnessed. I told Eran Ganot and some of the players that you couldn’t have written a better script for this ending, and that it was more satisfying than a 20-point win. Eran agreed, but he kept repeating, “This isn’t good for your health. This isn’t good for my health.”
First of all, UH was down two starters. We knew Bernardo DeSilva was going to be out. In addition, Samuta Avea was out with his back issues. He told me it wasn’t getting better while practicing during the week. He added that he could have played, but he would be in pain, and only rest would make it better.
The Bows took a four-point lead into halftime, and kept the lead for most of the second half. But UC Davis wouldn’t go away, and after a nice run of their own, took a nine-point lead, 71-62, with three-and-a-half minutes left in the game. Davis had momentum with the lead, but what they didn’t have was the best backcourt in the Big West.
Drew Buggs, who had 11 assists and only 1 turnover (that’s not a typo), hit a three to close the gap to 6. Justin Webster, in his first career start, got fouled on a three-pointer and calmly made all three free throws to get UH within 3. After a UC Davis free throw, “Steady” Eddie Stansberry hit a trey and scored on a layup to give the Bows a one-point lead. Davis regained the lead with 15 seconds left, and then it was time for more magic.
After a missed shot, the ball went out of bounds with five seconds left. This is where the brilliant coaching and perfect player execution came in. The called play had Webster going around a screen, as if he’d get the ball from Buggs. Eddie told me after the game that his role was to act as a decoy, and he stood still while everyone else moved around. That had Davis leaving him alone. He made his cut around a double screen, and drained a three from the far corner. Eddie told me he purposely flopped after the shot, so in case he missed the refs might award him free throws. It wasn’t necessary, but what a great play call, and the players all worked it to perfection.
After five games of Big West play, the ’Bows are tied for first at 4-1 with UC Irvine. Another big game is this Saturday vs CSUN, and I’m hoping it’ll be the biggest crowd of the year. You’ll want to be there, just in case it’s another game that’ll be remembered for a long time.
I know I’m not supposed to use four-letter words, but here I go: N-C-A-A, I know there’s a lot of basketball left, but I sense that this team has what it takes to make the NCAA tournament this year. They’ve got everything it takes, and they have found a way to win every close game. This is a team that the late, great Kobe Bryant would appreciate.