Teams around the Western Athletic Conference aced the opposition at home in Week 1 of league play. It’s now Hawaii’s turn to hold serve.
And the Rainbow Warriors seem to have patched up their ace just in time. Senior forward Bill Amis made a long-awaited return to the active — well, semi-active — lineup during yesterday’s afternoon practice.
UH (9-5 overall, 0-2 WAC) opens its eight-game WAC home schedule tomorrow against well-balanced Idaho (7-6, 1-1) at 7:30 p.m., then follows against an early front-runner, Boise State (9-5, 2-0) on Saturday.
Home-court advantage in the spread-apart WAC was especially pronounced in the first nine games of the league schedule, when hosts posted an 8-1 record. UH was on the wrong end of that, falling at Utah State and Nevada.
WAC home opener
» Who: Idaho (7-6, 1-1 WAC) at Hawaii (9-5, 0-2)
» When: 7:30 p.m. tomorrow, at Stan Sheriff Center
» TV: KFVE
» Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
That happened without Amis, a leader who has missed the past 10 games with a stress fracture in his right foot. The 6-foot-9 tri-captain looked like his old self yesterday, hitting mid-range jumpers, altering shots on defense and crashing the glass for tip-ins. He was limited to halfcourt work, but resolved to participate in everything in today’s final full practice before meeting the Vandals.
"That’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to be at full strength (today)," said Amis, who averaged team bests of 15.8 points and 6.8 rebounds through the first four games. "It’s pretty much healed. Just gotta play through it regardless."
While his sudden appearance could throw off the Vandals a little — UH coach Gib Arnold expressed doubt about Amis’ return as recently as Monday — the visitors from Moscow, Idaho, have been just as unpredictable.
In 13 games, seven different players have led the team in scoring. Their results have been hard to figure, too: The Vandals absorbed a 75-33 drubbing at Montana on Nov. 22, but doled out a 77-47 beatdown of Louisiana Tech.
"We’re just inexperienced. We’re one of the youngest teams in Division I college basketball," coach Don Verlin said. "Sometimes that shows up, but this team is hanging with it."
Junior guard Deremy Geiger leads Idaho at 10.5 points per game, though five other players average between 9.9 and 8.1 points. Senior guard Jeff Ledbetter went for a career-high 20 against LaTech.
"They are a talented team, they can beat you any number of ways," said UH assistant Brandyn Akana. "With their guards, their outside shooting, and they can beat you in the post."
The Rainbows will call upon their WAC-best defense to see them through this homestand. UH ranks 19th nationally with a field-goal percentage defense of 37.9.