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'Bows heat up, Vandals cool down

By Brian McInnis

LAST UPDATED: 1:44 a.m. HST, Feb 5, 2011

Fire meets ice tonight at the Cowan Spectrum in Moscow, Idaho.

The red-hot Hawaii men's basketball team hopes those elements stay true to recent form against the frigid Idaho Vandals, who've plummeted out of the Western Athletic Conference elite during a four-game losing streak.

Despite missing leading scorer Zane Johnson and top defender Trevor Wiseman against Boise State on Thursday, the rest of the Rainbow Warriors (13-9, 4-6 WAC) won for the fourth time in five games, 73-66, behind a scorching 58.7 percent shooting performance.

Now the Rainbows can win their third straight WAC road game for the first time since 2004 and possibly vault into the top half of the WAC, remarkable feats to consider for a team that started 0-5 in league play.

HAWAII (13-9, 4-6 WAC) AT IDAHO (12-10, 5-5)

» Today, 5 p.m. Hawaii time at Cowan Spectrum, Moscow, Idaho

» TV: None. Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM

If the uplifting victory at BSU was so far the highest point of the season, a 59-44 home loss to Idaho on Jan. 6 -- knocking Hawaii to last place at 0-4 -- was the lowest. Senior forward Bill Amis, now UH's go-to player at 14.8 points per game, made his return from a 10-game injury absence in that UI loss with six points.

That seems like an age ago for UH coach Gib Arnold.

"I think we're a different team than we were then," Arnold said yesterday evening before the team flew to Lewiston, Idaho, then drove a half hour to Moscow. "We were still trying to find our identity in conference and were struggling. I think that was our low point of the year. Idaho did a great job to get us out of our rhythm and offensively they hit a lot of shots. We weren't shooting it at all (29.4 percent)."

UH has since been energized by the 6-foot-9 Amis, who shot 9-for-12 for 22 points at BSU, and the 5-foot-9 Ostrowski, who had 12 points and eight assists off the bench. Ostrowski spelled starter Hiram Thompson, who took an elbow to the face just a minute into the game and required six stitches to close a deep gash.

"Bill played unbelievable last night. ... He's one of the best players in this league," UI coach Don Verlin said. "I think for whatever reason, when he came back, he just weren't right. But I've watched him play since, and man was he playing good."

Hawaii also could be bolstered by the return of Johnson, the sharpshooting junior guard who wasn't yet cleared to play at Boise because of concussion-like symptoms suffered against Utah State last Saturday. And Wiseman, a gritty freshman forward, will meet the team in Moscow today after remaining in Manoa during the BSU game to focus on schoolwork.

The UH coaches thought Johnson (14.6 ppg) might be available on Thursday, and are optimistic for his return today.

"We knew if it was close (on Thursday), it was gonna be a no for Zane," Arnold said. "The doctor just felt like we needed to give him a little rest, so we'll re-evaluate that (today) and hopefully there's a chance we can get him in."

Also, Arnold said Thompson is available after playing only 16 minutes against the Broncos.

Meanwhile, everything that's gone right over the last two weeks for sixth-place Hawaii has gone utterly wrong for fourth-place Idaho (12-10, 5-5).

The Vandals, who started WAC play 5-1, couldn't win agonizingly close games against Boise State, at New Mexico State and against San Jose State on Thursday. In that one, the Spartans made up an eight-point deficit with just over a minute to play and won in double overtime.

"We gotta work like crazy to get our mental focus back," Verlin said. "You work like crazy as a coach to not have a hangover between games. ... You gotta get your guys' minds right."

No single player dominates for the Vandals, but they are sound defensively and have numerous players who can score. Forward Kyle Barone led UI with 15 points off the bench in Honolulu and now is tops on his team with 11.3 ppg. Sharpshooter guard Jeff Ledbetter also averages 11.3 ppg.

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