HONOLULU — It took the University of Mississippi men’s basketball team most of the game to put things together, but when it did, it took over the game quickly.
Murphy Holloway scored 18 points and Mississippi pulled away from a tie game in the final minutes to defeat the University of Hawaii 81-66 in the fifth-place game of the Diamond Head Classic on Tuesday.
Nick Williams and Marshall Henderson scored 16 points each and Aaron Jones added 10 points for the Rebels (10-2), who broke away from a game tied at 63 to finish on an 18-3 run.
“I was proud of the fact that our guys at the end of the game made some adjustments, came up with some loose balls, defensively got a couple of stops, a couple key rebounds allowed us to get out in the open floor and stretch the game,” Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy said.
Jones’ putback gave the Rebels the lead for good at 65-63 with 3:40 left, and his emphatic, uncontested dunk made it 69-63 with 2:21 remaining.
Mississippi’s man-to-man defense shut down the Rainbow Warriors in the game’s final minutes. After Jones’ dunk, the Rebels came up with steals on back-to-back Hawaii possessions. Those steals led to Williams’ dunk and Jarvis Summers’ layup for a 73-63 lead with 1:25 left. Mississippi made six free throws to close out the game.
Vander Joaquim led Hawaii (6-5) with 29 points and 15 rebounds. Isaac Fotu had 11 points and Christian Stanhardinger had 10 in the loss.
“We just made some bad plays at the end,” Joaquim said. “They just kept coming. It was tough. They executed well the last couple minutes.”
Hawaii point guard Jace Tavita said his team didn’t respond well mentally.
“At the end of the game, they picked up the pressure to get us out of our sets,” Tavita said. “It disrupted us a little bit. Mainly, we broke down mentally. We weren’t mentally strong like we needed to be to finish games.”
Despite being outrebounded 41-32, the Rebels had several key rebounds late in the game on both ends of the court. The Rebels shot 44 percent from the field while the Rainbow Warriors shot 39 percent in a game that had 13 lead changes and was tied 11 times.
“I think this goes down as a quality win, it was against the home team,” Williams said. “They played hard and we expected that, we just fought like we always do and we grinded it out.”
Henderson hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Rebels a 25-9 lead with 8:34 left in the first half. The Rainbow Warriors responded with a 21-4 run to take a 30-29 halftime lead.
“He told us to keep grinding,” Williams said of his coach’s message at halftime. “We knew we were going to eventually make some shots and in the second half that’s what we did. We moved the ball, we got it inside, we kicked it out and knocked down timely shots. We grind out games and that’ll work for us later in the season.”