Wednesday, November 25, 2015         

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'Bows boot Fresno State

A big first half propels Hawaii to its second straight WAC victory

By Brian McInnis


A deep breath was what Hawaii needed, and what Hawaii got.

The Rainbow Warriors weathered a furious comeback attempt from Fresno State and exhaled after a 62-52 victory last night at the Stan Sheriff Center.

A crowd of about 4,000 watched the Rainbows (11-8, 2-5 Western Athletic Conference) build a 20-point halftime lead only to have the comfortable margin torn down brick-by-brick on 28-percent shooting in the second half.

Fresno State (7-10, 3-4) was unfazed by an impressive 17-0 UH run just before halftime and surged back into the game with a 12-3 spurt coming out of the break, eventually drawing within five points. But UH answered behind sophomore center Vander Joaquim, who had eight straight points for the Rainbows to stem the tide.

Joaquim, UH's steadiest force in WAC play, finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Senior forward Bill Amis had his second straight double-double with 11 points and 10 boards, sophomore forward Joston Thomas returned to the starting lineup with 12 points and freshman guard Bo Barnes busted out of a WAC-long slump with 12 points, all on 3-pointers in the first half.

The WAC-rival Bulldogs suffered their fourth straight loss after a 3-0 start to league play. UH is headed in the opposite direction; the Rainbows started 0-5 but were coming off a huge road win at Louisiana Tech. They won consecutive WAC games for the first time since the 2008-09 season.

"Only two. We only got two," Thomas said with a grin. "We're going to try to run off a couple more. But winning, whether it's the WAC, the NCAA or just the preseason games, winning is fun. ... We're just trying to keep this going."

In the opener of a three-game homestand, Hawaii moved ahead of idle San Jose State for seventh place in the nine-team WAC. UH plays the Spartans tomorrow.

All of UH's seven 3-pointers came in the first half, during which the Rainbows shot 51.7 percent in building a 41-21 halftime lead. But sometime during the halftime show, momentum completely switched to the opposite bench; UH had just one field goal in the first 10 minutes of the second half.

The Bulldogs hit five 3-pointers in the second period and drew to within 54-49 on a trey by Garrett Johnson (team-high 14 points) with 4:39 left.

"I hope we go up 20 a lot at halftime, but obviously we need to come out with a little more energy to make sure we hold that lead," UH coach Gib Arnold said. "Give Fresno State a whole bunch of credit for not giving up, fighting back. Give our guys some credit for finishing against a very good team."

Joaquim had just two points and four rebounds at halftime, but once FSU center Greg Smith picked up his fourth foul midway through the second half, Arnold knew where to attack.

"We did try to pound it inside," Arnold said. "I think we called (Joaquim's) number four or five straight times, and he came through."

The idea wasn't so much to foul Smith out, but to exploit the probability that last year's WAC Freshman of the Year wouldn't be as aggressive in protecting the rim. So Joaquim halted the FSU push with two free throws and an elbow jumper, then followed up with a dunk and an inside basket for a 56-49 lead with 3:08 to play.

"I feel very comfortable because he had the four fouls, he wanted to stay in the game, he didn't want to foul out," said Joaquim, who notched his third double-double in WAC games.

FSU got a 3-pointer from point guard Steven Shepp to pull within 58-52 with 2:16 left, but that was all the visitors could muster.

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