POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Feb 3, 2011
Different temperature, different court, different fans. All favor Boise State.
But there is a new edge for the Hawaii men's basketball team, too — confidence.
The sixth-place Rainbow Warriors hope to convert solid play over the past two weeks into their fourth Western Athletic Conference victory in five games when UH takes on the BSU Broncos today at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho.
"The same thing what we're doing, just keep doing," UH coach Gib Arnold said. "Our attitudes are good. We're playing together. Guys' spirits are up. I think you just need to keep plugging along and try to improve in every game and every practice."
UH (12-9, 3-6 WAC) took to the road Tuesday night with the idea of gaining ground on BSU and Idaho, who are tied in fourth place with identical records of 12-9 overall and 5-4 in conference. The Rainbows also play at Idaho on Saturday.
Tough a loss as it was, UH's 89-84 double-overtime home defeat to WAC leader Utah State on Saturday was seen as a positive sign, even if the Rainbows didn't manage to win four straight WAC games for the first time since 2004.
The recent play of two players is a large part of the team believing it can avenge last month's 24-point home loss to the Broncos.
Senior forward Bill Amis has returned to form from a two-month injury absence to post double-doubles in three of the past four games, while junior guard Miah Ostrowski has emerged to share point guard duties with Hiram Thompson.
HAWAII (12-9, 3-6 WAC) AT BOISE STATE (12-9, 5-4)» Today, 4 p.m. Hawaii time, at Taco Bell Arena, Boise, Idaho
» TV: None.
» Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
"We got so much confidence right now. We won three straight and we played a top-25 team up and up," said Ostrowski, whose coming-out party was the USU game, when he had 15 points and six assists. "We're going to go in (to BSU) knowing that we should have won when we were back home and we just gotta stay focused."
The team arrived safely in Boise yesterday morning after flying through Salt Lake City. Conditions are cold (in the low 30s and high 20s), but clear. The team got in a practice on the BSU campus in the afternoon.
Junior guard Zane Johnson was limited to shooting at yesterday's practice, but he is expected to play today. Johnson, the team's leading scorer (14.6 points per game), was shaken up by an elbow to the head from Aggies forward Tai Wesley in the first half on Saturday, but returned to match a career-high 25 points in the loss.
While the Rainbows — not too long ago in last place at 0-5 — have been on the way up, the Broncos are trying to buck a downward trend.
BSU, the highest-scoring team in the WAC at 75.0 ppg, has been hit with success and failure in waves. The Broncos were 6-0 to start the season, then lost five of their next six. They turned a four-game winning streak, capped off by winning 79-55 at Hawaii on Jan. 9, but have dropped four of five since.
That loss at the Stan Sheriff Center was one of the more difficult losses dealt to the Rainbows this season. UH led by two at halftime, then got blitzed by the athletic Broncos, who put up 50 points in the second half.
First-year BSU coach Leon Rice knows Hawaii has improved of late.
"They look like they have just settled in. Maybe understand their roles a little better," Rice said. "They're playing better together."
It was the only time in WAC play Boise won or lost by a 20-point margin.
"When I look back at the (UH) game, I try to look for the secrets and what we did well — we made shots," Rice said. "We just have to pretend we're on the beach in Hawaii. That's always a nice mind-set. Maybe the warm weather helped us shoot the basketball."
UH will try to make the most of its last WAC game at Taco Bell Arena and final regular-season meeting with the Broncos, who depart for the Mountain West Conference after this season. UH last won there in 2006, and BSU has won seven of the past eight meetings overall.
Arnold said he will have some family at the game. His father, former UH coach Frank Arnold, lives in the area.