POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Feb 14, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 11:10 a.m. HST, Feb 14, 2011
Those bye weeks in football can cut either way. A hot team can cool off and lose its sharpness. But, generally, especially late in the season as injuries and other stresses pile up, extra time between games is considered heaven-sent.
Same with basketball, at least right now for the University of Hawaii men's team. Gib Arnold's first UH squad — which has exceeded most expectations with a 13-10 record — comes off a nine-day break between games when it hosts Nevada tonight.
While that is a very long time off in the middle of conference play, Arnold agrees it's a positive for the Rainbow Warriors as they try to make a strong stretch drive to the WAC tournament.
"I think it was great. I felt like we were pretty banged up," he said after yesterday's practice.
The down time was good for guards Zane Johnson and Hiram Thompson, who both had head injuries. And forward Bill Amis was among several players battling cold and flu symptoms.
THE BREAK also came just in time (or maybe one game too late) for the young team to recharge emotional batteries.
On Jan. 29, the host Rainbows took WAC kingpin Utah State to double overtime before falling 89-84. When you factor in the scintillating performance of grieving guard Miah Ostrowski and talk to folks who were in the building that night, you get the sense this was the most dramatic game at the Stan Sheriff Center since at least Riley Wallace's career finale in 2007.
And, despite being a loss, it should prove a tipping point for attendance. The largest crowd of the season, more than 7,000 in the house — as well as a statewide TV audience — saw first-hand what we've been telling you about since November: this team's resilience and togetherness.
Following such an emotional game, it would have been easy for UH to suffer a letdown five days later at Boise State, especially with leading scorer Johnson and Trevor Wiseman out of action and Thompson suffering a bloody gash to his forehead. But the opposite happened, and the Rainbows pulled together for a 73-66 win.
A tired Hawaii team finally reached its limit and lost by 14 at Idaho two nights later. That was Feb. 5 and UH's last game before tonight. Hosni Mubarak was still the president of Egypt and the New Orleans Saints were still the reigning Super Bowl champions.
Hopefully the new fans that were made on the night of the Utah State game last month haven't forgotten it's still basketball season. UH deserves another big supportive crowd tonight.
ARNOLD HOPES he kept the rust off the Rainbows with a scrimmage last week that included referees and a highly motivated bench. "It was good because our scout team had all of Nevada's stuff done," he said. "We want to keep an edge."
There was also plenty of lifting last week, including that of textbooks.
And the coach did some mainland recruiting, where word of the gutsy performance against Utah State was still buzzing.
"A lot of recruits called on that one," Arnold said. "Even though we were beaten, they noticed the crowd support and the energy.
"It kind of showed at the time of the Diamond Head Classic, too, with some of the TV games, the game against Florida State. You could feel the interest in the phone calls."
AS FOR the here and now, the Rainbows still have a lot of work to do to make it to the WAC tournament. But what they've accomplished already has brought a sense of excitement to UH basketball that hasn't been felt in quite a while; you can even feel it in some of their losses. Arnold turned a bunch of guys who a year ago hadn't even heard of each other into a band of brothers in record time.
They've won four of six after a bad start in the WAC. And when these Rainbow Warriors do go down, they tend to go down fighting.
Let's see how they perform now, after having had a chance to catch their breath.