Sports Utah State hands Hawaii a tough loss By Jeff Hunter / Special to the Star-Advertiser Jan. 27, 2012 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! ASSOCIATED PRESSUtah State's Danny Berger went up for a shot against UH's Davis Rozitis, left, and Hauns Brereton. Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. LOGAN, Utah » When asked if he’s OK with Thursday night’s visit to Utah State being his last before Hawaii leaves the Western Athletic Conference for the Big West, Rainbow Warriors head coach Gib Arnold didn’t waste any time responding. "Oh yeah," Arnold declared with a chuckle. Although the four-time defending conference champion Aggies are considered "vulnerable" this season, their spirited home crowd helped lift them to a 77-72 victory over Hawaii. Utah State (11-10, 3-3 WAC) bounced back from a road sweep at Seattle and Idaho last week thanks largely to the support of 9,870 fans at the Spectrum. 77 UTAH STATE 72 HAWAII NEXT: UH at Idaho, 6 p.m. Hawaii time, Saturday "I think it’s a great college environment; I think this is what college basketball should be," Arnold added. "But given a choice between playing here and playing in, say, Malibu, I’d probably choose Malibu." Several key statistics were practically the complete opposite from last year’s visit to Utah State, but the outcome was still the same for the Rainbows (11-9, 3-3). In a 74-66 loss at Logan last year, Hawaii was outrebounded by 19 but converted better than 63 percent from the field, including 8-for-14 from 3-point range. Hawaii dominated the glass in Thursday’s game, outrebounding the Aggies 48-28 and pulling down 24 offensive boards to just five for the home team. However, the ‘Bows shot less than 41 percent from the floor and knocked down just three of 17 from beyond the arc. "We crushed them on the boards, but we just couldn’t hit shots. We couldn’t hit a 3," Arnold said. "We can’t go 3-for-17 on the road and win games. You’ve got to hit shots against a sagging defense. That’s exactly what they were doing. They were doubling and tripling our bigs, as well they should have. You’ve got to knock them down. That’s part of the game." Despite always being doubled down in the post by the Aggies, Hawaii center Vander Joaquim tied a career high with 24 points and also snared 14 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season. "I think that’s about as good as I’ve played, but it doesn’t matter to me," Joaquim said. "I’m trying to get the win. It doesn’t matter if I score 24 points if we don’t win." Junior forward Joston Thomas added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the ‘Bows, while forward Hauns Brereton came off the bench to total 15 points and six rebounds. However, Hawaii’s leading scorer, Zane Johnson, had a rough night, going just 1-for-9 from 3-point range and 4-for-16 from the field overall on his way to scoring nine points in 34 minutes. "It was just one of those nights," said Johnson, who had 24 points in last year’s game at USU. "I was getting some clean looks, but they scout well. They’re a really good defensive team, and they’re tough to play against. They really lock in." The Aggies shot 49 percent as a team on their way to improving to 9-1 all-time against the Warriors in Logan. Sophomore guard Preston Medlin went 13-for-14 from the free-throw line on his way to a game-high 25 points, while Danny Berger (12 points), Ben Clifford (11 points), Kyisean Reed (10 points) and Brockeith Pane (10 points) all reached double figures. "We needed this win in the worst way," USU head coach Stew Morrill said. "We scrapped and clawed and hung in there. We tried to give it away a little there at the end, but I’m pleased with how hard our guys played." Utah State held a 38-30 advantage at halftime, then went on a 10-2 run early in the second half that energized the crowd and forced Arnold into calling a timeout with his team trailing 52-38. A layup by Pane later stretched USU’s lead to 15 points with just under 12 minutes to go, but the Rainbows slowly started to dig themselves out of that big hole. Over the next 9 minutes, Hawaii’s various defensive looks and rebounding prowess helped the visitors outscore the Aggies 15-5, and a putback by Trevor Wiseman closed the deficit to 66-61. Although Utah State quickly bounced back to extend its lead to 10 points, the Rainbows continued to battle as Arnold made wholesale personnel changes down the stretch, swapping his best offensive and defensive units in and out as much possible. Despite being serenaded by a chorus of "It’s a Small World," 5-foot-9 point guard Miah Ostrowski knocked down two free throws with 21 seconds left to pull Hawaii within four points. But the Aggies went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line and came up with a key defensive rebound to all but seal the victory prior to Brereton’s 3-pointer with 1 second remaining. "We were close," Johnson said. "We almost had it." A key moment for the Warriors came early in the first half when Brereton fired up a 3-pointer that bounced high off the rim before coming back down and going through the basket. The referees immediately waved it off, however, saying that the basketball had made contact with the bottom of the shot clock. Noting that the officials had a better angle than he did, Arnold also pointed out that there is quite a bit of room between the top of the backboard and the clock, and that he was anxious to see the replay. "For us to bank one off the shot clock, maybe that was the best chance we had to make a 3," Arnold cracked. "We cut it to four there at the end, so if just one more 3 goes in, it’s a whole new ballgame." Previous Story New Raiders coach has reputation as 'intense' Next Story Paterno's son: 'Dad, you won. You can go home now'