HONOLULU — Samuta Avea scored 19 points and tournament host Hawaii advanced to the final of the Diamond Head Classic for the first time with a 62-51 victory over Washington State on Friday night.
Hawaii, which has hosted the event 11 times since 2009, will play SMU in the championship game on Sunday. The Classic wasn’t played in 2019 because of COVID-19 and COVID also forced the cancellation of last year’s final between Stanford and Vanderbilt.
Avea made 8 of 14 shots with two 3-pointers for the Rainbow Warriors (8-3). Jovon McClanahan finished with 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting, adding six rebounds and four assists. Noel Coleman scored 13.
TJ Bamba led the Cougars (5-7) with 19 points on 6-of-18 shooting.
McClanahan scored 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting to guide Hawaii to a 24-23 lead at halftime.
Bamba made a layup to tie the score at 35, but Avea had the first and last basket in an 8-0 run and Hawaii grabbed a 43-35 lead with 9:20 remaining.
Dylan Darling’s layup ended a scoreless span of 4:38 for the Cougars and Bamba’s layup cut their deficit to six at the 6:45 mark. Avea hit a 3-pointer, Coleman had a three-point play and Hawaii took its first double-digit lead — 51-40 — with 3:55 to go.
WSU, which averages a Pac-12-best 9.2 from 3-point range, made only 3 of 13 against the Rainbow Warriors. The Cougars finished with two assists on 18 baskets. They shot 30.5% overall.
The two schools played each other for the first time since 1991. WSU leads the series 5-2.
Washington State will play Utah State in the consolation final on Sunday.