By Jon Cooper
The third annual Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic continued its tradition of dramatic finishes, improbable outcomes and remarkable individual and team achievements. The four-day, 12-game event had it all, and when it was all over, the Kansas State Wildcats proved too much for the rest of the field, ending the new gold dream of the Long Beach State 49ers in the finals. Here’s a look at the 2011 field:
Auburn got 17 points from junior guard Frankie Sullivan and 14 points from junior center Rob Chubb in edging Hawai’i, 65-62, in a dramatic opener. Chubb, who had 10 points in the second half, converted a fast-break pass from junior guard Varez Ward with 3.9 seconds left to put the Tigers ahead for good, 63-62. Sullivan hit 6-of-12 shots (3-for-7 from three) as Auburn led the most of the game and by as much as 11 in the first half. But the Tigers squandered an eight-point lead with 2:36 remaining and fell behind for the first time, 62-61, with 8.6 seconds left before Ward broke Hawai’i’s press and hit Chubb for the dunk. Senior forward Kenny Gabriel added 13 points and nine rebounds for Auburn, which shot 48.1 percent for the game. Cold shooting doomed Auburn in its 64-43 loss to Long Beach State. Sullivan had a game-high 22 and shot 8-for-16 and 6-for-9 from three, but the rest of the team went 7-for-41 (17.1 percent), including 1-for-12 from three. The Tigers went the final 7:28 of the first half without a field goal and trailed by 10 at the half. A 9-2 run pulled Auburn within eight but the Tigers went cold and fell behind by 22. In their finale—which was coach Tony Barbee’s first game against his former team—the Tigers fell to UTEP, 83-76, despite a career-high 24 points from Gabriel and 18 from Ward. The game had nine ties and six lead changes, but Auburn couldn’t recover from a 9-0 run midway through the second half. The Tigers shot 50 percent in the second half, but couldn’t stop the Miners, who hit 65 percent.
Clemson’s offensive struggles proved costly in its 61-48 loss to UTEP. Freshman guard/forward K.J. McDaniels had 13 and junior forward Milton Jennings added 12 for the Tigers, who were tied at the half despite needing more than five minutes to get on the board. Holding a two-point lead with 13:19 to play, Clemson went the next 11:30 without a field goal, resulting in a decisive 20-5 run. Clemson had a 16-4 edge on the offensive glass and a 13-2 edge in second-chance points but shot only 30.4 percent, 28.6 in the second half and 14.3 from three. The Tigers forged a late comeback in their next game to beat Southern Illinois, 83-75, in overtime. Senior guard Tanner Smith scored 24 of his career-high 26 points in the second half and freshman guard Rod Hall, who scored a career-best 18, tied the game with a three-point play with 3.8 seconds remaining to force extra time. The Tigers, who trailed 31-24 at intermission, survived going more than 15 minutes without a field goal, and caught the Salukis when Hall was fouled while hitting a jumper to cap a game-closing 9-1 run. In overtime, Smith scored six straight points and the Tigers shot 15-for-17 from the line to seal the deal. They were 26-for-34 overall. In the finale, Clemson ran out of gas in falling 75-68 to Hawai’i. The Tigers led by three at the half but shot only 36.4 percent in the final 20 minutes, while the Warriors converted 60 percent of their shots. Senior guard Andre Young led Clemson with 14; Booker added 13 with seven rebounds. The Tigers used a 10-0 run to take a 34-31 lead into the locker room, but allowed a 9-0 run to start the second half and never recovered, trailing by as much as 12.
Hawai’i suffered heartbreak in its 65-62 loss to Auburn. Senior guard Zane Johnson led the Rainbow Warriors with 18, junior forward Joston Thomas added 12 and junior center Vander Joaquim had 10 and nine rebounds for the hosts. UH, which trailed almost wire to wire, overcame an eight-point deficit with 2:36 to play by going on an 11-2 spurt, capped off by Joaquim’s jumper with 8.6 left. But Hawai’i’s press was broken, leading to a dunk, then they committed a turnover. UH made only 5 of 17 threes, with Johnson making four of them, and missed 10 of 23 free throws. Hawai’i bounced back, winning an 84-82 overtime thriller over No. 14 Xavier. Thomas had a career-high 24, including the game-winning basket with 0.8 seconds left in the extra session. Hawai’i spotted Xavier the game’s first 12 points, and trailed by 11 at the half but equalized with two seconds left on junior forward Hauns Brereton’s only three of the game. UH never trailed in the extra session and Thomas answered after Xavier tied the game with 12 seconds left. Hawai’i didn’t go down to the wire in beating Clemson, 75-68. Johnson had a game-high 27 points, 19 in the second half, hitting 6-of-12 from three; Joaquim added a 14-point, 10-rebound double-double and senior guard Jeremiah Ostrowski had a game-high eight assists. Hawai’i trailed 34-31 at intermission, but used a 9-0 second-half-opening run to take the lead for good. Johnson (5-for-7, 4-of-6 from three, 5-for-6 from the line) sparked the ’Bows, who shot 60 percent from the field, 50 percent from three, and made 10 of 11 free throws in the final 20. He was named to the All-Tournament team, averaging 19.7 points and 4.3 rebounds.
Kansas State used blistering first-half shooting to rout Southern Illinois, 83-58. Freshman guard Angel Rodriguez came off the bench to score 17 points, shooting 5-of-6 from three and junior guard Rodney McGruder added 13. Rodriguez and McGruder each had 11 in the first half as the Wildcats shot 61.9 percent, 66.7 from three, in blowing out to a 19-point halftime lead. A 12-0 second-half run pushed the lead to 30. State shot 54.3 percent, 64.3 on threes, while holding SIU below 30 percent for the game and to 22.6 percent in the second half. Rodriguez had a game-high 16 and senior forward Jamar Samuels added 10 with 12 rebounds in State’s 78-70 win over UTEP. The game saw five first-half ties and four lead changes before the ’Cats took a 45-32 lead into the half. State forced nine turnovers, leading to a 14-0 edge in points off turnovers, and held a 14-2 edge in second-chance points. In the second half, KSU went cold, and UTEP tied the game. But a three by Rodriguez with 9:29 left began a decisive 14-1 run. The Wildcats had an 18-6 edge on the offensive glass (39-21 overall). In the championship game, McGruder went off for a career-high 28 on 10-of-11 shooting as KSU knocked off Long Beach State, 77-60. The Wildcats never trailed and used another big first half to race out to a 40-28 lead at the break. The lead never got below 10 in the second half. Sophomore guard Will Spradling added 17, hitting three of his five three-point attempts, and Samuels added 11 with four assists and two blocks. McGruder was named Tournament MVP, averaging 15 points on 64 percent shooting, 44.4 from three and 81.8 from the line, with 6 rebounds. Samuels also made the All-Tournament Team, averaging 11.6 points and 8.3 rebounds.
Long Beach State used solid defense to overcome a slow start and upend No. 14 Xavier, 68-58. Freshman guard Mike Caffey came off the bench to score a team-high 14 on 5-for-8 shooting and senior guard Casper Ware added 12 with game-highs in rebounds (eight) and assists (five) to lead the 49ers, who had five double-digit scorers. LBSU limited the Musketeers to 34.8 percent shooting in the first half and only 25 percent from three for the game while forcing 10 turnovers, leading to 11 points. An 8-0 run midway through the first-half run gave the 49ers the lead for good, and they shot 59.1 percent to lead by double figures for much of the second 20. Senior guard Larry Anderson scored a game-high 16 points and LBSU again applied a smothering defense to beat Auburn, 64-43. State held Auburn to 23.1 percent shooting in the first half and went on an 11-0 run to take a 32-22 lead into the half. In the second half, the 49ers went on a 16-0 run to pull away. Ware and senior forward Eugene Phelps each had 13 as the ’Niners shot 76 percent from the line and outscored Auburn 19-6 from there. In the championship game Anderson and Ware both scored 17, but the ’Niners fell behind early and never caught up, losing 77-60 to Kansas State. LBSU trailed by 12 at intermission, despite shooting 55.6 percent from three. In the second half, however, they shot only 30.3 percent, and made only one of 10 threes. Caffey had eight points and nine rebounds as LBSU trailed by double digits throughout the second half. Anderson earned a berth on the All-Tournament Team, averaging 15 points on 53.8 percent shooting, with 4 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2 steals.
Southern Illinois ran into a buzz saw in dropping its opener, 83-58, to Kansas State. Senior guard Justin Bocot and junior guard Jeff Early each had 10 to lead SIU, which shot under 30 percent from the field and under 23 percent from three. Key players Davante Drinkard, sophomore forward and Mamadou Seck, senior forward, both were saddled with early foul trouble for the Salukis, who led in the first minute but trailed by 19 at the half, as KSU shot 61.9 percent, 66.7 from three. SIU cut the lead to 13 but then faded and the lead reached 30, as the Salukis shot only 22.6 percent in the final 20. SIU regrouped in its next game but lost a heartbreaker to Clemson, 83-75 in overtime. The Salukis led by seven at the half and by eight with 3:30 to play but managed one free throw the rest of regulation and were forced into OT. In the extra session, SIU held a pair of one-point leads but then allowed a 9-2 run over the next 1:46 and never recovered. Seck had 18 with four assists, while Bocot added 15. In their finale, the Salukis fell 87-77 to No. 14 Xavier. SIU got a career-high 22 from freshman forward Dantiel Daniels on 7-for-8 shooting, and Seck had a 12 point, 10-rebound double-double, but the Salukis were outscored 36-16 from the foul line and never led after a 6-0 run broke a the game’s fifth tie midway through the first half. SIU, which came in having not allowed an opponent to score 65 points in a game, allowed an average of 84 in the three games.
UTEP roared from behind in the second half to upset Clemson, 61-48. The Miners closed the game on a 21-8 run and declawed the Tigers’ offense, holding them to one field goal over the final 13 minutes to turn a 40-40 tie into a 13-point win. Sophomore guard Michael Perez scored a game-high 25 and junior guard Jacques Streeter dished out a game-high seven assists for UTEP, which shot 55.6 percent in the first half. The Miners limited Clemson to 30.4 percent shooting, 14.3 from three, and clamped down in the second half, outscoring CU 37-24 and holding the Tigers to 28.6 shooting, 14.3 from three. In their next game, the Miners put a scare into Kansas State before falling 78-70. Streeter had 15 and six assists to lead five double-figure scorers as UTEP overcame a 15-point deficit early in the second half and took the lead with 10:07 left. But KSU went on a 14-1 run and held off the Miners. UTEP took the third-place game, downing Auburn 83-76. Sophomore center John Bohannon put in a career-high 20 and had nine rebounds as the Miners led by six at the break but had to rally from five down in the second half. UTEP shot a blazing 65 percent in the second half and hit 71.4 percent from three (5-for-7). Perez scored 15 of his 18 in the final 20, and had five straight points in an 8-2 run that extended a one-point lead to seven and put UTEP on its way. Perez was named to the All-Tournament Team averaging 17.7 points, shooting 55.1 percent, 60 from three (9-for-15) and 80.0 from the line.
No. 14 Xavier couldn’t overcome a cold-shooting first half in getting upset 68-58 by Long Beach State. Senior guard Tu Holloway scored 17 points and added four assists, but the Musketeers shot only 34.8 percent, 28.6 from three and trailed by eight at intermission. Xavier shot 53.6 percent in the second 20 but allowed LBSU to shoot 59.1 percent and trailed by double digits most of the half. The Musketeers were outscored 14-4 on second-chance points and took two fewer free throws (13) than LBSU made. Xavier lost a heartbreaker in its next game, falling in overtime 84-82 to Hawai’i, despite Holloway’s 26 points and six assists, both game highs. Junior guard Mark Lyons chipped in 18 in his return from suspension. The Musketeers shot 53.3 percent and 50 percent from three (7-for-14) in blowing out to a 45-34 halftime lead but made only two of nine second-half attempts and committed nine turnovers. Holloway’s three with 24 seconds left gave Xavier the lead, but they allowed a game-tying three with two seconds remaining. In overtime, XU never led and again had its heart broken. After junior forward Travis Taylor made one of two free throws to tie the game, Hawai’i got the game-winning jumper with one second left. Xavier salvaged the finale, beating Southern Illinois 87-77. Holloway had 21, while Lyons (17 and 10 rebounds) and senior forward Andre Walker (13 and 10) each had double-doubles. Xavier used an 11-2 run to take a 42-36 halftime lead in a first half that saw five ties and six lead changes, then pushed the lead to 12 and pulled away late. The Musketeers had a 36-16 edge at the line, outshooting SIU 48-22, and turned 11 turnovers into 17 points.
University of Maryland alum Jon Cooper is an Atlanta-based freelance writer.