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Saturday, December 20, 2014         

RAINBOW BASKETBALL


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Big TV stage calls Rainbows

By Brian McInnis

POSTED:


Hawaii twice showcased successful small ball to its home crowd. Now the Rainbow Warriors will try to play big on a national stage.

Size matters when UH takes on Central Michigan in an ESPN-televised contest at 11 tonight at the Stan Sheriff Center. The game is part of the network's College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon.

The Chippewas (1-1) of the Mid-American Conference offer the most physically imposing lineup Gib Arnold's Rainbows (2-0) have seen in this young season. CMU isn't a huge team — its tallest players are 6-foot-9 — but it still outrebounded Montana State and Cal State Fullerton, mutual opponents with UH, by an average of 8.5 per game.

Besides the obvious benefits of a solid showing in front of a national (albeit early-morning) audience, UH can win the 47th Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic outright with a victory.

47TH OUTRIGGER HOTELS RAINBOW CLASSIC

» Central Michigan vs. Hawaii

» At Stan Sheriff Center

» Today, 11 p.m.

» TV: ESPN

» Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM

» Promotions: "Blackout" night. Fans are encouraged to wear black shirts. UH Manoa students get in free. The fan judged with the best sign using the ESPN acronym wins an interisland plane ticket. The first 100 UHM students get a free black T-shirt.

 

Expect the Rainbows to rely more on their centers, Vander Joaquim and Douglas Kurtz, than in UH's other two Classic contests against smaller foes Montana State and Cal State Fullerton. The post tandem combined to play 21.5 minutes in the wins, meaning UH was without a true center about half the time.

"I thought both Doug and Vander played really well in the minutes they had," said Arnold, who exhorted the team to show interior toughness in a shortened practice yesterday.

Arnold said the team will approach the late start like any other game. The primary concern was the Chippewas' explosiveness.

"I really like (CMU). I like how they play," Arnold said. "They do play really hard, and if you look at the team, they're all really strong, really good athletes. ... They're relentless on the boards."

Kurtz, a 7-foot, 265-pound senior tri-captain, is eagerly awaiting an opponent more tailored to his physical style.

"We watched (CMU) the last games. They hit the boards pretty hard. It's not a big, big deal for us, because we do that as well (plus 7.5 per game). We just have to do our jobs," Kurtz said. "Not only me, but Vander too, just waiting for that opportunity and going to grab it."

Freshman shooting guard Bo Barnes has certainly seized his opportunity. In the first two games of his UH career, Barnes has opened eyes with his torrid perimeter bombing off the bench. Barnes has 10 3-pointers and 38 points in two games on 55.6 percent shooting from long range.

"The coaches have confidence in me to knock it down, so it definitely helps," Barnes said. "When you're confident, just going in there and looking forward to it. Definitely felt like all of them were going to go in when I shoot it."

UH is shooting 50.4 percent from the field, led by point guard Hiram Thompson (66.7 percent), power forward Bill Amis (61.9), Barnes (56.0) and small forward Joston Thomas (50.0). Thompson and Amis, the only returning starters over the past two seasons, have posted new career highs in points (21 and 24).

CMU was tested down to the wire in both its Classic games, needing a Jalin Thomas game-winning buzzer-beater against CSF and falling in overtime to MSU.

The Chippewas' aggression on the backboards was a constant; 6-foot-7 forward William McClure has 23 rebounds so far in the tournament. CMU's Thomas is averaging 18.0 points.

"Rebounding is a point of emphasis for our program," said fifth-year CMU coach Ernie Zeigler. "We want to try to defensively hold our opponent to 40 percent field-goal percentage or less, and try to outrebound our opponent. It'll be a stern test early in the season against Hawaii."

UH is 1-1 in ESPN's Marathon games, with an overtime win over Idaho State in 2008 and a loss to Northern Colorado last season.






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