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Reverse the Curse?

By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.

The University of Hawaii men’s basketball team will try to snap a four-year streak of first-round exits tomorrow when they take on UC Riverside in the Big West Tournament in Henderson, Nevada. Currently, the No. 3 seed Rainbow Warriors (16-10) are 1.5-point underdogs to the Highlanders (16-11).

Here’s a look at Hawaii’s history in the Big West Tournament:

2013: One and Done. The Rainbow Warriors rallied from a miserable first half, but could not catch UC Irvine, falling to the Anteaters, 71-60. Hawaii trailed, 44-22, at halftime. Senior guard Hauns Brereton led the UH effort with 18 points and nine rebounds. Center Vander Joaquim also had 18 for the ’Bows.

2014: One and Done. Despite a career-high 20 points from guard Keith Shamburger, the Rainbow Warriors dropped an 87-84 heartbreaker on overtime to CSU Northridge. Brandon Spearman, who contributed 17 points for Hawaii, had a chance to send the game into a second overtime, but his three-point attempt in the waning seconds was off the mark.

2015: Advanced to Final. Hawaii raced out to an early 14-4 lead, but UC Irvine fought back and eventually wore down the ’Bows to take a 67-58 decision. Aaron Valdes put up 17 points to lead the Rainbow Warriors, while Garrett Nevels added 14. Valdes also grabbed seven rebounds for Hawaii.

2016: Champs! Roderick Bobbitt’s two free throws with 1.7 seconds left in the game sealed Hawaii’s 64-60 win over Long Beach State, giving the Rainbow Warriors their first Big West Tournament championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Tournament MVP Aaron Valdes led the UH attack with 14 points, while Stefan Jankovic added 10 points.

2017: One and Done. A late 17-1 run by Long Beach State propelled the 49ers to a 73-62 opening-round victory over Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors were led by First-Team All-Big West selection Noah Allen, who scored 21 points. Gibson Johnson contributed 18 points and six boards.

2018: One and Done. In a heartbreaking loss, Hawaii squandered a 10-point lead with four minutes left in the game, allowing UC Irvine to pull out a 68-67 win over the ’Bows. The Anteaters’ Max Hazzard buried a jump shot with 5.5 seconds remaining to put Irvine ahead. Brocke Stepteau drove the length of the court in the game’s waning seconds, but his short-range pull-up was just off the mark.

2019: One and Done. For the second straight season, a last-second shot ended Hawaii’s Big West Tournament run in the opening round. This time, it was Long Beach State’s Jordan Roberts who did in the Rainbow Warriors, draining a jumper with less than a second left to eliminate Hawaii, 68-66. UH was led by Zigmars Raimo, who recorded 14 points and 10 rebounds. Eddie Stansbury and Brocke Stepteau chipped in eight points apiece.


2021: One and Done. In a defensive struggle, UH faltered down the stretch and fell to UC Riverside, 62-52. Trailing for most of the game, the Rainbow Warriors tied the game with seven minutes remaining, but the Highlanders went on a 13-3 run to close out the contest. Junior Madut put up 13 points, five rebounds and three assists to lead the Hawaii effort.

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