Hawaii men’s basketball team rallies to beat UC Santa Barbara

Hawaii came back from a huge early deficit tonight to beat UC Santa Barbara 65-62 and extend its men’s basketball winning streak to seven games.

The Rainbow Warriors are undefeated and alone atop the Big West standings at 6-0. UH is 11-5 overall after the win at Stan Sheriff Center’s SoFi Arena. The Gauchos fell to 1-3 and 8-8.

Junior Madut led Hawaii with 16 points and nine rebounds, helping the Warriors come back after leading 19-2, 23-4.

Kamaka Hepa, who scored 13, gave UH its first lead with a 3-pointer with 8:24 to play, part of a 13-0 run for the Warriors. He also had a key free throw with 2.8 seconds left for the final score.

>> PHOTOS: Hawaii vs. UCSB

Hawaii extended their lead to 52-45 with another trey from Hepa. The Gauchos were again within two, but Amoro Lado’s 3-pointer and Noel Coleman’s 6-foot banker made it 57-50 with just over 3 minutes to go. UCSB held Coleman, UH’s leading scorer, to just 6 points. But teammates took over and the Warriors made 7 of 10 3-pointers in the second half.

UCSB fought back again, but a reverse layup from Jerome Desrosieres put Hawaii ahead 59-54.

The Gauchos, who were led by 16 points from Ajay Mitchell, stayed within a possession for the final minute, but Jovon McClanahan, Madut, Coleman and Hepa combined to make 6 of 8 free throws down the stretch .

At first it didn’t look like it would be a close game as the visitors dominated the first 10 minutes.

The Gauchos penetrated the Warriors defense with ease early on with five layups, all from their half-court attack to lead 10-2. They extended the lead to 19-2 and 23-4.

UH chipped away and led by 7 points from Madut, cut the margin to 30-19 at halftime.

Hawaii’s newly hired football coach, former Warriors star quarterback Timmy Chang was introduced to the crowd at halftime.

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