POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Feb 1, 2011
There was a point in the second half of Saturday night's basketball game when members of the University of Hawaii bench looked up at the Stan Sheriff Center crowd as if wondering where the rising din was coming from.
Hardly surprising, of course, when you consider only Hiram Thompson, then a pre-mission freshman, had been in a Rainbow Warriors uniform the last time such a crowd -- or decibel level -- had been heard in a Western Athletic Conference game on UH's home floor.
Not since UH was in the thick of the WAC race in the 2005-06 season had the 'Bows drawn more than the 6,502 the school said turned out for Saturday's conference game.
Despite the double overtime loss to three-time defending WAC champion Utah State, the crowd was one of the best indicators to date the 'Bows are on an upward curve after some extremely lean and trying years.
Not only has their 12-10 record already put them two victories ahead of last year's win total with at least eight games remaining and a good chance to post their best record in four years, but ticket revenue had surpassed last season's total even before the Utah State game.
Those are noteworthy accomplishments considering UH will play two fewer games this season and another "home" game was played on Maui.
With three home games remaining, UH has already taken in more than $800,000 in ticket sales, its turnstile average is running nearly 1,000 more per game than last year at 3,801 per game and it is likely to finish with its best home attendance in five years, according to UH figures.
Not since 2005-06 has the 'Bows' turnstile average topped 4,000.
To be sure, there have been a couple of games that have gotten away from the 'Bows, a WAC tournament berth has yet to be secured and head coach Gib Arnold is looking to push the improvement needle a lot higher.
But when you consider it was about this time last year, in the midst of what would eventually become a nine-game tailspin, that UH was just starting to think seriously about making a coaching change and not until April that Arnold was hired, it has been an encouraging turnaround.
One that, so far, gives UH something to build on as well as optimism for eventually getting it done.
Having worked hard to set up the atmosphere present in the Utah State game and the Florida State contest in the Diamond Head Classic and relished its arrival, the trick now is to keep building on it.
You get the feeling most of those on hand Saturday night will want to come back and be part of it.
Arnold had said last week that if the game had been declared a sellout he'd go about his game chores in shorts and zori. You hope that when the place eventually does fill up it will be because of the attraction on the court rather than a dare undertaken by the coach.
At UH, a school that hasn't experienced a home sellout in seven years, the rafters are the limit.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com.