Not bad for a first look. Not bad at all.
Joston Thomas scored 25 points and provided some emotional leadership to lead new-look Hawaii past Chaminade 83-55 in new coach Gib Arnold’s exhibition debut last night at the Stan Sheriff Center.
A crowd of 3,539 was on hand for the first live action of Arnold’s transformed Rainbow Warriors, who got all six active newcomers in.
The Rainbows received a standing ovation after the buzzer.
Though the win against the Division II Silverswords didn’t count, there were many positive signs for the rebuilding UH program, which opens for real on Friday against Montana State.
Senior forward Bill Amis added 14 points, seven rebounds and three blocks as he and Thomas, the two focal points of Arnold’s offense, combined to go 18-for-36 from the field.
Thomas, who also had seven rebounds, doled out chest bumps and high-fives and got the crowd cheering on several occasions.
“I didn’t know how many points I had, I was just playing hard,” said Thomas, a sophomore transfer out of College of Southern Idaho. “I was just trying to help my team (pick) up the win. … I’m just happy we won by so much, but we gotta put that behind us.”
His emotions matched those of Arnold, who has feverishly tried to prepare the team since his hire in March.
“I was really excited,” said Arnold, who alternated pacing the sidelines and sitting in an anxious crouch. “It was one of those days where you wake up in the morning and your stomach is jumpy, a little bit. … I believe this is a game of passion and a game of emotion. And if
I’m asking my players to play that way, then they should probably expect me to coach that way.”
Junior guard Zane Johnson added 13 points and freshman sharpshooter Bo Barnes was perfect in four attempts from the field — including three from long range — for 11 points.
The Rainbows scored 30 points off 20 Silverswords turnovers and posted a 38-14 advantage on points in the paint.
The stat the animated Arnold was most pleased with, though, was only nine turnovers.
A few questions about the team were answered, though Arnold said last night’s starting group wouldn’t be the one he chooses on a nightly basis.
The starting five included four returnees from last season, though only one (point guard Hiram Thompson) who saw regular court time. Johnson, Amis, center Douglas Kurtz and newcomer Thomas were the other starters.
A 22-point first-half Hawaii lead dwindled to 10 midway through the second half, but Thomas powered UH on a 10-0 run — featuring the night’s signature play, a breakaway power dunk — to reclaim control.
UH showed a willingness to press fullcourt, which resulted in multiple giveaways by Chaminade.
“We’re not even close to where we need to be. I thought they did a great job,” Chaminade coach Matt Mahar said. “I’m disappointed we couldn’t give them more of a game. They invited us in here to give them a test. And I don’t think we did that at all, so I’m sorry we couldn’t do that for them.”
UH’s D-II neighbor failed to effectively feed the ball to junior center Mamadou Diarra in the post in the second half. The 7-foot USC transfer had 12 of his 14 points in the first period and went without a field goal after halftime. He added 13 rebounds.
The Rainbows hit all five of their 3-point attempts in the first half — including three by Barnes — to take a 15-point halftime lead.
Hawaii defeated Chaminade 70-61 last season in a regular-season contest that could have swung either way in the final minutes.
Last night, though, the ’Bows put it away safely.
Silverswords guard De’Andre Haskins, a projected starter, was out with an injury, but so too were guard Anthony Salter and forward Dominick Brumfield for the Rainbows.
The last active newcomer to see action was freshman guard Jordan Coleman, who got in for the final 3 minutes.