POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Mar 16, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 01:45 a.m. HST, Mar 16, 2011
Was the Stan Sheriff Center half full or half empty last night?
All depends on how you want to look at it.
For the University of Hawaii basketball team, the 4,431 tickets sold for their 10,000-seat home court was more than enough to help inspire the Rainbows to a 76-64 win over Portland in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament.
And — combined with the high quality of UH's play — it was enough to ensure Hawaii a home date Saturday in the second round.
"The word I got is that the CIT officials were very impressed with the way we played, and that factored into the decision," UH athletic director Jim Donovan said.
Coach Gib Arnold and the players credited the crowd ... and it was certainly louder than you'd expect for its size.
But it's still disappointing that more didn't show up for this team, a team that truly deserved something closer to a sellout.
Of course, the decision to put the game on TV figured into the smallish crowd. Donovan had reasons beyond the $7,500 rights fee Oceanic-Time Warner paid.
"We wanted the neighbor islands to have an opportunity to see the game. It was unrealistic to expect many to fly over for a Tuesday night game," he said.
Like Arnold said, "This is a team that plays for the islands."
It all worked out, and the department made a few dollars, too.
"We were at $62,000 (earlier in the day), including TV and needed $58,500 to break even. So we made money," the athletic director said.
Donovan said Oceanic's bid was higher than that of KFVE — and now the question is if the Home Team (and its veteran floor crew and broadcast partners Jim Leahey and Artie Wilson) is out of the picture completely for UH basketball.
That all still needs to be worked out. Oceanic seemingly has a cast of dozens of voices to call upon for different sports.
And it's got High Def, all the better to see those gaudy green shoes the Rainbows unveiled last night.
"We're undefeated in those bad boys," said Arnold, confirming they'll wear them again Saturday.
In the giddiness of the afterglow, people were talking sellout for round two, when UH will host either Air Force or San Francisco. It's doubtful that will happen unless the game is not televised; Donovan said he will decide on that Friday.
AS FOR THE game itself, two things really stood out (in addition to 39 free throws for Hawaii and eight for Portland) — factors that are continuing themes for this team.
First, the impact of point guard Miah Ostrowski cannot be overstated. Without the talent on loan from the football team, there's no way the Rainbows are still playing. I wonder if they would have made it to the WAC tournament without him. He appreciated the fans in the stands.
"We fed off the crowd; they really boosted our energy," he said. "That's something we can't get on the road."
He scored a career-high 17 points, and the smallest man on the court came up big with six rebounds.
Once again, UH's interior defense dominated. Hawaii won this game in many ways, but perhaps the biggest reason was the stretch of 4 minutes and 30 seconds in the second half in which Portland did not score a basket.
Bill Amis acknowledged that the Pilots' Luke Sikma is a fine player, but it didn't seem to bother him that he drew comparisons to his father Jack, who was an NBA great.
Sikma fouled out with six points, as Amis and Vander Joaquim — who brought back memories of Helicopter Galloway with a block — controlled the area around the hoop.
WHETHER SATURDAY'S game is on TV or not, this team is worth your attendance if you consider yourself a UH basketball fan. This edition of the Rainbows really deserves a sellout.
And those shoes have to be seen up close to be truly appreciated.