Hawaii waited seven years for a postseason basketball game.
The Rainbow Warriors and their fans will wait just four days for their next one.
UH defeated Portland of the West Coast Conference 76-64 in the first round of the 24-team CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament last night at the Stan Sheriff Center, setting up a second-round game in Honolulu on Saturday.
A lockdown defensive effort on the normally sharpshooting Pilots got the Rainbows (19-12) through. UH held Portland (20-12) to just 35.1 percent from the field and a 17-point lead held up against a Pilots’ charge in the final minutes.
UH athletic director Jim Donovan, who spoke with CIT selection committee chairman Riley Wallace last night, said UH will host either San Francisco or Air Force at 7 p.m. on Saturday, depending if USF wins or loses against Idaho today.
"This team isn’t ready to go home yet," said UH coach Gib Arnold, who equaled Bruce O’Neil’s 19 wins for the most by a first-year coach since the program began playing an all-college schedule. "We’re not ready for spring break.
"We’re not going anywhere. We’re gonna keep playing, and I couldn’t be prouder."
An energetic crowd of about 4,300 was on hand for UH’s first postseason game since 2004, and saw the Rainbows go on a 13-0 run bridging the halves to seize control after an early seven-point Portland lead.
Some struggles at the free-throw line (16-for-24 in the second half) allowed the Pilots to hang around, but effective games from all five heavily used UH starters was the difference.
Junior point guard Miah Ostrowski scored a career-high 17 points, Zane Johnson scored 15 of his 19 points in the first half and senior forward Bill Amis and sophomore center Vander Joaquim posted double doubles. Freshman forward Trevor Wiseman added nine points and plenty of his typical energy plays.
"It feels really good. I’ve never won a game in postseason, not even WAC tournament, so this feels amazing," said Amis, who had 14 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks and five steals. "Especially to do it at home."
Meanwhile, two of Portland’s big three of Jared Stohl, Nemanja Mitrovic and Luke Sikma were locked up. Stohl scored 18 of his 22 points in the first half, but Mitrovic and Sikma, All-WCC players both, gave him no support. They fouled out with six points each.
Portland, the No. 2-ranked team in the nation in 3-point field-goal percentage at nearly 42 percent, was held to just 8-for-26 shooting from deep (30.8 percent). The Pilots were held scoreless for a 4:30 stretch in the second half in which the UH lead stretched to its largest. During that span, Mitrovic fouled out hacking Ostrowski on a fast-break basket.
Portland got to within 65-54 with 5:36 to play and had a few chances to get it to single digits, but missed on all counts.
By the time Stohl got a steal and made two free throws to cut it to 69-60, it was almost too late with 2:25 to play. Portland got to within 71-64 with 1:25 left, but UH responded with Wiseman’s leak-out thunder dunk to ice it with 42 seconds left.
Too often, the Pilots settled for jump shots when the Rainbows attacked inside, helping explain the 39-8 differential in free throws in UH’s favor. Portland attempted its first free throw with 7:29 to play — in the game.
Ostrowski played all 40 minutes because of injuries to ball-handlers Hiram Thompson and Bobby Miles. A loss would have meant the Punahou product, who also is a UH football slotback, would go back to football and be without any college hoops until December.
He played like it, zooming around the court in attack mode for multiple forays to the paint. Twelve of his points came in the second half and were instrumental in keeping the Pilots in a holding pattern. For the game, he made seven of 11 shots from the field.
"Every time I turn off a screen I look and see if there’s a lane. If it’s there, I’ll try to attack it; if not, I’ll look for Bill or any of the other guys," Ostrowski said.
"We feed off his drives and his buckets," Amis said. "They’re always in big moments."
UH looked to pound the ball inside early to bigs Amis and Joaquim. The two started a combined 0-for-6, but eventually wore down the Pilots’ front line with a 34-22 advantage in points in the paint.
Late in the half, Joaquim energized the crowd with a three-point play off a putback and a big block of a Sikma shot into the front row seats. UH shot 12-for-15 on free throws in the period, while the Pilots didn’t get to the line once, as the Rainbows led 38-32 at the break.
Johnson came into the game needing a 3 to tie Michael Kuebler for the UH single-season record of 97. He got that in the first half, but couldn’t break the mark.
HAWAII 76, PORTLAND 64
Rainbow Warriors (19-12)
Key — fg-a: field goals made-attempted; ft-a: free throws made-attempted; rb: rebounds; pf: personal fouls; pts: total points; a: assists; to: turnovers; min: minutes played.
Halftime — Hawaii 38, Portland 32
3-point goals — Portland 8-26 (Stohl 4-11, Mitrovic 2-6, Riley 2-6, Waterford 0-1, Sikma 0-1, Nicholas 0-1). Hawaii 2-8 (Barnes 1-2, Johnson 1-4, Ostrowski 0-1, Thomas 0-1). Steals — Portland 9 (Stohl 2, Mitrovic 2, Sikma, Knutson, Riley, Rodgers, Nicholas). Hawaii 11 (Amis 5, Ostrowski 2, Wiseman 2, Johnson, Thomas). Blocked shots — Portland 5 (Knutson 4, Rodgers). Hawaii 4 (Amis 3, Joaquim). Officials — Jef Ketchu, Mark Cook, Ryan Wells. A–Not provided.
Ohio 65, Marshall 64
East Tennessee State 76, Furman 63
Jacksonville 71, East Carolina 66, OT
Northern Iowa 84, Rider 50
Air Force 77, North Dakota 67
Santa Clara 68, Northern Arizona 63
Tennessee Tech at Western Michigan
Iona at Valparaiso
Oral Roberts at SMU
Idaho at San Francisco