Hawaii captured the consolation title in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic with a 68-57 win over Mississippi State today at the Stan Sheriff Center.
The Rainbow Warriors (9-3) raced out to a 12-0 lead against the depleted Bulldogs (8-5) and led by as many as 22 in the second half to finish in fifth place in the tournament with a 2-1 mark.
"Very pleased with the tournament. I thought our guys gave us 120 minutes of passion and played together," UH head coach Gib Arnold said.
UH guard Zane Johnson led the Rainbows with 19 points and Hiram Thompson went 9-for-10 from the free-throw line to finish with 14 points. Forward Joston Thomas contributed 11 points.
Mississippi State shot 27 percent from the field and was led by Kodi Augustus’ 18 points and 11 rebounds. Guard Jalen Steele had 14 points.
Mississippi State played without forwards Renardo Sidney and Elgin Bailey, who were suspended and sent home after getting into a fight in the stands on Thursday that drew national attention.
The Bulldogs came out flat to start the game, missing their first seven shots from the field, and the Rainbows scored the game’s first 12 points.
Steele finally got Mississippi State on the board with a 3-pointer at the 14:22 mark of the first half.
"We weren’t emotionally where we needed to be at the beginning of the game," Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury said. "But we’re not going to make any excuses."
The UH lead grew to 34-14 on a 3-pointer by Bo Barnes and the Rainbows held a 42-23 advantage at halftime.
UH cooled off after taking a 55-33 lead in the second half and Mississippi State went on a 10-1 run to close the gap.
Johnson stopped the run with a 3-pointer from the left side off a feed from Joston Thomas to give UH a 59-43 lead with 6:31 left and the Rainbows cruised to the win despite 1-for-11 shooting from 3-point range in the second half.
"I was very pleased on the defensive end," Arnold said. "For a shooting team, we didn’t shoot the ball well, but we were able to consistently get stops."
With Mississippi State thin in the post, UH outscored the Bulldogs 30-12 in the paint and center Vander Joaquim finished with nine points and 11 rebounds. Freshman Trevor Wiseman added nine points and eight rebounds off the bench.
UH sophomore Miah Ostrowski made his college basketball debut less than 24 hours after playing in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl with the Warrior football team. Ostrowski, who caught two passes for 72 yards in UH’s loss to Tulsa on Friday, entered the game at the 4:45 mark of the first half. He didn’t score in 2 minutes of play.
UH opens the Western Athletic Conference season on Dec. 29 at Utah State.