POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 25, 2010
Hawaii's leading producer watched from the bench with his injured foot in a boot.
Shots that had fallen earlier this season were now bouncing off the rim, and the ball slipped out of the Rainbow Warriors' hands with troubling regularity.
But an injection of intensity got the Rainbows back on track in time to hold off a feisty Arkansas-Pine Bluff team last night at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Without the scoring and rebounding of senior forward Bill Amis, Hawaii fell behind the winless Lions by nine in the first half. A 17-4 run early in the second half propelled the Rainbows to a 70-63 win to close their season-opening homestand at 5-0.
"At one point we felt like they were outplaying us in our house and we're not having that," UH forward Joston Thomas said. "So we just brought it together as a team and just said we have to cease this. ... We built a mind-set going into the second half that we were going to come out with a lot more intensity and a lot more emotion."
Amis is expected to miss about a month while a stress fracture in his foot heals. Thomas, UH's starting small forward over the first four games, stepped in for Amis at power forward and finished with 16 points and six rebounds.
After UH missed its first seven 3-point attempts, Zane Johnson knocked one down late in the first half to spark the Rainbows on his way to a season-high 16 points. Point guard Hiram Thompson scored 11 of his 15 in the second half as well.
Sophomore center Vander Joaquim turned in his strongest performance of the season in grabbing 16 rebounds before an appreciative crowd of 4,117 (5,676 tickets issued).
"Vander was relentless on the boards," Thomas said. "He realized they had two (players) boxing me out, and he looked at me and said 'I got you.' That's exactly what he did. He got every board that came off the rim."
Hawaii opened 4-for-16 from the field and committed 10 turnovers in the game's first 15 minutes. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (0-5) didn't fare much better, but an 8-for-18 shooting start was enough to give the Lions a 21-15 lead.
UH head coach Gib Arnold varied the combinations on the floor throughout the first half, playing two point guards at times. Freshman guard Bo Barnes made his first career start and hit three 3-pointers to account for his nine points.
"I thought we started slow and maybe we were looking around a little bit to see how we were going to do this," Arnold said, "and I think they figured it out with about 5 minutes left in the first half. And I thought from there on out we played some pretty good basketball."
Johnson hit UH's first 3-pointer at the 1:35 mark of the first half, and Barnes hit another with 5 seconds left to send the Rainbows into halftime trailing 32-29.
"We needed that little boost of energy," Arnold said. "We are a good shooting team, and when we hit shots, we're pretty tough."
Much of Thomas' production came on tough moves in the paint and the Rainbows made 25 of 34 free throws while outrebounding the smaller Lions 40-28.
The Lions -- who had lost their first four games by an average of 36 points -- clung to a 39-36 advantage early in the second half before UH broke away to take a 53-43 lead after Barnes knocked down a 3 with 12:25 left. The Rainbows never led by more than 12, and Arkansas-Pine Bluff closed to within five late.
But Hawaii managed to keep the Lions at arm's length to remain perfect heading into next week's road trip to Cal Poly and BYU.