There was no question in the mind of Hawaii freshman forward Trevor Wiseman.
"We HAVE to wear them," he said, referring to the alarmingly bright green shoes the Rainbow Warriors used in advancing past the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament this week.
UH (19-12) takes on San Francisco (18-14) of the West Coast Conference in the CIT second round tonight at the Stan Sheriff Center. With a win, the Rainbows would advance to play at Santa Clara in the quarterfinals on Tuesday.
Head coach Gib Arnold commanded the shoes — which the team got about a month ago but had only used in practices — be used in a game for the first time against the Portland Pilots. Since it resulted in a 76-64 win, indications are the Rainbows will wear them again.
"We should have been wearing these," Wiseman said, laughing as he looked down. "I wanted to wear these in the WAC tournament … I think we would have won."
Beating USF, the WCC’s third-place team, will require more than just flamboyant footwear. The Dons have played much better than their overall record shows; after overcoming some injuries and a 4-9 start to the season, USF has enjoyed one of its best campaigns in recent memory. A 10-4 mark in WCC play was the Dons’ first 10-win league campaign since 1982.
It’s become a banner year for UH as well. It can claim its first 20-win season since 2004, when the Rainbows advanced to the third round of the NIT.
CIT Second Round
» Who: San Francisco (18-14) at Hawaii (19-11)
» When: 7 p.m. today
» TV: OC 16
» Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
"That’s what we’ve been working for this whole season, is this game," said UH senior forward Bill Amis (15.4 points per game, 7.6 rebounds per game), who again faces the prospect of his last game in the Sheriff. If he was bothered by that fact, he didn’t show it.
"Now we get to go out there, play in front of the home crowd and have some fun."
USF last played in Honolulu in the 2008-09 season opener in Rex Walters’ debut as Dons’ coach. The visitors took that game 75-70, but Amis and point guard Hiram Thompson were the only current ‘Bows on that team.
The Dons are transformed as well.
"It’s funny, when we took our last picture when we went to Pearl Harbor, we’ve only got one guy on the team that was in that photo," Walters said. "This is a totally different team, Hawaii’s a totally different team with a different staff. Obviously, Gib’s done a great job. … It’s going to be a good battle for us."
It could be an interesting matchup; each team defeated a member of the other’s conference to get to the CIT second round. The Dons knocked off Idaho
USF’s four-out, one-in attack starts with All-WCC guards Michael Williams and Rashad Green. Williams, a sophomore, was fourth in the WCC in scoring at 15.0 ppg. Green adds 11.9 ppg.
The Dons like to spread the floor with a lone big man inside and four perimeter players who can either pop a 3-pointer or drive and kick. Arnold noted USF is the more athletic team, as has been common this season, but UH is feeling confident because of its sound defensive scheme — it is ninth in the country in field-goal percentage defense at .391 — and, obviously, the home court, on which UH is 14-4.
"It helps if you’ve got some freak athletes, but if you don’t, you play together as a team and it helps minimize their very, very strong athleticism," Arnold said.
UH junior guard Zane Johnson, UH’s top scorer at 15.9 ppg, has 97 3-pointers this season, and needs one more to break the record he now shares with Michael Kuebler. Johnson is seventh in the country in 3s made per game at 3.2.
Though Thompson is still out from a hyperextended elbow, backup point guard Bobby Miles should be able to give starter Miah Ostrowski some relief. Miles, who had a hyperextended left knee and missed the Portland game, practiced during a light-hearted session yesterday.
With a win, UH would advance to play another WCC team in the quarterfinals on Tuesday. The Sheriff is booked for a robotics convention most of next week, ruling out a home game for UH.
"I might try to enter in that, get some more home cooking for one more game," Amis joked. "My robot will come in with flying colors."
Of the shoes, the tri-captain said, "I just wear whatever they tell me to."