POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Nov 25, 2010
With 9 minutes and 5 seconds left in last night's University of Hawaii basketball victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, an ovation rang out in the Stan Sheriff Center that seemed to catch even its intended recipient, Vander Joaquim, momentarily by surprise.
For it was the kind of a salute usually reserved for flashy, lights-out shooters, not workmanlike centers.
It was loud, well-earned testament to the 6-foot, 10-inch Joaquim's mounting domination of the boards with 16 rebounds in an eventual 70-63 victory.
On a night when the Rainbow Warriors stretched their record to a perfect 5-0, Joaquim's stepped-up play inside helped UH overcome its many imperfections on a ragged night. When UH needed to go inside out to reignite its slow-starting long-range shooting, Joaquim was, well, in the middle of it.
In the absence of Bill Amis, the Rainbows' leading rebounder and scorer who is out for a month with a fractured foot, Joaquim and Joston Thomas took up the slack inside to send Hawaii away from its first homestand unbeaten.
Moving into the power forward spot, Thomas had 16 points. Joaquim, a sophomore junior college transfer suddenly thrust into a 30-minute role, nearly tripled his previous rebound high. "He was boarding 'em up tonight," Amis said.
"I don't think I ever had 16 (rebounds) before," marveled Joaquim, a native of Angola.
"For a young guy in the fifth game of his college career to come in and get 16 boards, I was very happy," head coach Gib Arnold said.
And even happier at the response of the crowd of 4,117 that showed its appreciation of Joaquim's much-needed performance. "That shows the fans know their basketball for a guy to get an ovation for playing hard and rebounding and I loved it," Arnold said. "I was thrilled with it and he earned it. And it was good for his confidence."
When the Golden Lions double-teamed Thomas, Joaquim's play gave them reason to back off. "He realized they had two (defenders) boxing me out and he looked at me and said, 'I got you,' " Thomas said. "And, that's exactly what he did. He went and got every board that came off the rim."
Joaquim's performance was most significant on the defensive boards. The Golden Lions got just five offensive rebounds. Joaquim got 11 on the defensive side.
Said Arnold: "There's no doubt he's going to be a good player for us. Before he leaves he can be as good as any center in the WAC ... or whatever league we're in."
Last night, when the Rainbows needed it most, Joaquim was pretty much in a league by himself.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com.