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Rainbows pass their first tests

  • BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM
    Joston Thomas had 14 points and five rebounds against Central Michigan.
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Call it a multiple-subject cram session.

On three nights over a four-day period, the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors faced off against three distinctly different opponents in the 47th Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic. Yet UH’s players and coaches, many of them new to the program, proved themselves to be quick studies in winning all three games, including a hard-earned 65-62 contest against Central Michigan early Tuesday morning to cap the tourney.

Coach Gib Arnold has Hawaii at 3-0 for the first time since the 2004-05 season, when Riley Wallace’s team started 8-0.

"For us to be able to succeed against those three different styles on three different nights with such a short turnaround time, I thought the guys responded really well," Arnold said. "As coaches, we learned a lot about our team, positives and negatives and how we defend and how we offensively attack different defenses and different styles."

On Friday, UH successfully dealt with Montana State, a dangerous shooting team that could spread the floor, winning 77-59. On Saturday, the test was a speedy Cal State Fullerton team that forced Hawaii to play small. UH clamped down late in that game, denying the Titans a point in the final 3:39 of a 84-70 win.

The Rainbows won the Classic by outlasting the Chippewas in a bruising, ESPN-televised game that finished at 1:18 a.m., as part of the network’s College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon.

Arnold was confident that all three opponents in the Classic — MSU (2-1), CSF (0-3) and CMU (1-2) — would finish high in their respective leagues, the Big Sky, Big West and Mid-American conferences.

The coach was obviously happy with the unbeaten start, but more so with the team’s attitude throughout. He pointed out there was still much to work on, particularly staying disciplined in the offense and on defensive assignments.

"What we really wanted (was) to instill the foundation of this team," Arnold said. "It’s going to play hard, and it’s going to play together and play with passion. Those are the things I thought we would do. I thought this group would give me all that, and for the most part I think we did. If we would have done those three things and gone 0-3, I still would have been pleased as a coach. I think that’s how you build a program."

It was Hawaii’s first Rainbow Classic title since 2006 and first since the event went to a four-team round-robin format in 2009.

Next up for UH is Central Arkansas at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Stan Sheriff Center.

 

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