Hawaii junior Samuta Avea had been looking for his shot since missing five games during the middle of the Big West season with an injury.
He found it during a critical time on Thursday night.
Avea scored a career-high 18 points and hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with three seconds left in the Rainbow Warriors’ 67-65 win at UC Davis. Avea hit all four of his 3-pointers in the game’s final 3:45 as Hawaii closed out the game on an 18-3 run.
“When I was out it was hard to get my shot like it was (before),” Avea said. “Just kind of getting everything back in tune has been a work in progress. I’ve been working really hard to do that. My coaches and teammates have kept my confidence up and told me to keep shooting.”
It’s the sixth time this season the Rainbow Warriors (17-12, 8-7 Big West) have rallied late in the game for a comeback victory. Hawaii also beat UC Davis, 76-75, on Eddie Stansberry’s 3-pointer on Jan. 18 in Honolulu.
“Really proud of our defensive possessions late and the guys executed late,” Hawaii head coach Eran Ganot said. “And give Samuta a lot of credit for struggling most of the game, particularly from the perimeter, and making big shots.”
Down 65-63, Hawaii called a timeout with 17 seconds remaining. The initial play was for Stansberry to take the shot. When that didn’t materialize, Avea got the ball.
“He had the hot hand so I gave it to Samuta,” said point guard Drew Buggs. “He did the rest. He’s a great player. We have all the confidence in the world in him taking that shot especially when he’s hot like that.”
Hawaii and UC Davis are tied for fourth in the Big West standings at 8-7. The Rainbow Warriors close out the regular season at Cal State Northridge on Saturday. Northridge and UC Santa Barbara are tied for second at 9-6. UC Irvine (13-3) has clinched the regular-season title and top seed in the league tournament.