A night that started with overflowing positive energy for Hawaii somehow turned into an empty, lifeless performance by the Rainbow Warriors.
UH fell flat on its face in its Western Athletic Conference home opener, a 59-44 loss to Idaho before a crowd of about 4,000 last night at the Stan Sheriff Center.
The team’s lowest offensive output since 1998 went hand-in-hand with its worst start to WAC play in nearly as long. UH fell to 0-3 in the conference (9-6 overall) for the first time since 2000-01.
The wince-inducing evening featured a 15-point second half by the hosts, after they trailed by five at halftime.
Coach Gib Arnold’s crew showed life on defense, forcing 21 turnovers, but that wasn’t enough to overcome a season-worst 29.4 percent shooting night against the Vandals (8-6, 2-1).
"We gotta just move on. I really hope nobody gives up on this team," Arnold said. "This team’s got a long ways to go and we’re not nearly where we need to be. We know that. We’re disappointed. … You know, we gotta fix some things and come back strong."
The Rainbows will try to get on the WAC board tomorrow against Boise State (10-5, 3-0).
Surprisingly, shooting is at the top of that fix list; the most efficient 3-point shooting team in the WAC went 3-for-22 from long range. Hawaii was 0-for-12 on 3s in the second half when it unsuccessfully tried to claw its way back.
The team’s top three shooters, Zane Johnson, Bo Barnes and Hiram Thompson, combined to go 3-for-18 from deep.
"We didn’t shoot the ball well at all," said Thompson, who had a team-high nine points. "I had a lot of open looks that didn’t fall, the other guys same thing."
Coming into the game, it was difficult to imagine such a flat effort for two reasons. First, the Rainbows got their top forward, senior Bill Amis, back from a 10-game injury absence. He looked strong in practices this week and even started last night. But the tri-captain shot 2-for-7 for six points and two rebounds in 29 minutes.
Second, UH was at home, where nights like last night simply don’t happen. The Rainbows dropped to 8-2 at the Sheriff this season.
"It’s a tough one. I know our guys tried; I just don’t know (what happened)," Thompson said.
UH trailed 34-29 at halftime, but allowed an 8-0 run to start the second half — including six points by guard Shawn Henderson — and would come within single digits just once before Idaho completely asserted control.
Idaho shot 43.8 percent, outrebounded UH 40-28 and was usually in control despite its turnover count.
"They (the Rainbows) missed some wide-open shots tonight. I don’t know if it was our doing, but they missed some open shots," Idaho coach Don Verlin said.
Vandals reserve forward Kyle Barone had a game-high 15 points, including 11 in the first half, and guard Jeff Ledbetter had 14 points and a game-high nine rebounds.
UH picks up Utah transfer
The Rainbows added former Utah guard Jace Tavita to their roster as a practice player for the rest of this season, UH coach Gib Arnold said after the game.
Tavita, a 6-foot-4 junior, watched the game from the bench.