When the University of Hawaii men’s basketball team let fly its 20th 3-point attempt of the game last night, a chorus of "Bo" rose from the stands in the Stan Sheriff Center.
What at first must have seemed like a leftover echo of "boo" from recent seasons, when the Rainbow Warriors too often couldn’t hit the broad side of Diamond Head from long range, was instead a serenade of the new crowd favorite, Bo Barnes, who buried the shot with 4 minutes, 34 seconds left.
The freshman from Scottsdale, Ariz., made good on seven of 13 shots — including five of nine from 3-point range — for 19 points and one of the most eye-opening contributions to head coach Gib Arnold’s winning debut, a 77-59 thumping of Montana State in the 47th Outrigger Hotel Rainbow Classic.
You hesitate to read too much into one game, but it is hard not to be pleasantly impressed by this opening-night effort and what it might portend for the season. The hustle, the defense, the nod to the future with three freshmen on the court at one time and, of course, the 3-point shooting.
Especially the 3-point shooting.
The Rainbows made 10 of 23 attempts, which, given recent history, was a significant accomplishment in itself. I mean, they didn’t make 10 of them in a single game last year. Not since January 2008 had they hit double figures in long-distance shooting. There might be a plaque someplace in the arena to mark the occasion.
Twice in the 2009-10 season UH was held to just one. Once, a student came out of the stands to match the ‘Bows’ long-distance shooting during a halftime contest. Not surprisingly, UH ranked in the bottom 25 percent in the country the past two years, managing just 28.3 percent in 2008-09 and 31 percent in 2009-10. Not by coincidence the ‘Bows were 10-20 in 2009-10.
When an opponent went on a hot shooting streak in the past the ‘Bows were usually left behind in a hail of missed 3-pointers, unable to match them basket for basket. But last night, even when the Bobcats opened with 8-for-14 3-point shooting, UH was in the game because it had an answer.
Several of them, really. Three players — Hiram Thompson, Joston Thomas and Barnes made 3-pointers. And this was without a contribution from Zane Johnson, the Arizona transfer who was heralded as their most accomplished long-range shooter. He was 0-for-5 (0-for-3 from 3-point range).
It was, instead, the floppy-haired Barnes’ night to dazzle and awaken the imagination of the crowd. As much as Bill Amis and Thompson impressed in their returns and Thomas matched his "beast" billing with six rebounds and 18 points, Barnes was the exclamation point, hitting from all angles.
Enough so that when the crowd began to take up a chorus of "Bo" you knew it was the promise of the present and future and not a dreaded echo from the past.