Historically, wins over Utah have been hard to come by for the Hawaii basketball program.
But the Rainbow Warriors put together a balanced performance in a 68-55 win over the Runnin’ Utes in a consolation bracket game in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center.
With the win, Hawaii snapped a nine-game losing streak to Utah dating back to the Utes’ days as a member of the Western Athletic Conference and avoids having to play in the early game on Christmas morning.
The Rainbows (8-3) next face Mississippi State for fifth place at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
Utah (7-5) will play San Diego in the seventh-place game at 9 a.m.
Guard Zane Johnson led the Rainbows for the second straight game with 17 points, hitting four of five 3-point attempts, while forward Joston Thomas finished with 15 points.
Hawaii point guard Hiram Thompson scored 13 points in an unexpected return.
The senior entered the game at the 13:49 mark of the first half. Thompson’s status for the tournament had been considered doubtful since suffering a back injury in UH’s game against Chicago State on Dec. 17.
Utah edged out to a 21-19 lead before Hawaii went on a 10-0 run, half of the Rainbows’ points coming from the free-throw line. UH made 18 of 24 shots from the line in the first half while Utah was 10-for-12.
Joston Thomas energized the crowd with a thunderous dunk off a drive from the right wing with just under a minute left in the half.
The Rainbows held Utah without a field goal in the first 5:54 of the second half and stretched the lead to double digits early in the second half.
After Johnson hit his third 3-pointer of the game, Thomas got a floater in the lane to drop and pulled up for another jumper to put UH ahead 46-34.
The lead grew to 62-46 and the Utes, who shot 33 percent from the field, didn’t threaten again.