A second-half explosion powered the University of Hawaii basketball team to an 85-57 season-opening win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Friday at the Stan Sheriff Center.
After taking a one-point lead into halftime, the Rainbow Warriors opened the second half with a 12-2 run and later pulled away with 21 unanswered points to cruise to the victory in the opening night of the Outrigger Resorts Rainbow Classic.
Benjy Taylor’s debut as acting head coach was highlighted by UH guard Aaron Valdes’ career-high 28 points on 11-for-15 shooting from the field. The sophomore contributed 17 of UH’s 52 second-half points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds.
Negus Webster-Chan added 16 points in his first game as a Rainbow Warrior and junior Roderick Bobbitt finished with 11 points and had seven of UH’s 20 assists. Garrett Nevels, the Rainbows’ lone senior, also scored 11 points and Quincy Smith made all three of his field-goal attempts and added eight points and five rebounds.
After a tumultuous preseason that saw the departures of head coach Gib Arnold, assistant Brandyn Akana and All-Big West forward Isaac Fotu, the Rainbow Warriors opened the season in resounding fashion in shooting 46 percent from the field — nearly 59 percent in the second half — and hitting eight 3-pointers while outrebounding UAPB 46-28.
UH hit four of its first five shots from the field to open the game, starting with Valdes’ corner 3-pointer on the Rainbows’ second possession of the season.
Neither team led by more than five in the first half and UH took a 33-28 lead on a Valdes jumper with 1:03 left.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff went without a field goal over the final 5:15 of the first half, but scored the final four points from the free-throw line to cut UH’s lead to 33-32 going into halftime.
Valdes went into the locker room with 11 points and matched that total in the first 4:30 of the second half in leading UH on a 16-5 run coming out of the break.
UH scored the first eight points of the half with Valdes hitting a 3-pointer and Webster-Chan scoring inside off an inbounds pass then draining another 3 a little over a minute into the half.
Valdes later tipped in a Nevels miss then came up with a steal and threw down a breakaway dunk to give UH a 45-34 lead.
UH maintained at least a seven-point cushion and broke away again with the 21-0 spurt. The Rainbows opened up a 72-51 lead on back-to-back 3-pointers by Nevels and Bobbitt with Webster-Chan hitting another with 4:47 left.
Valdes’ dunk off a lob from Bobbitt and Nevels’ layup capped the outburst and extended UH’s lead to 80-51.
Marcel Mosley hit three of UAPB’s five 3-pointers and led the Golden Lions with 18 points. JoVaughn Love added 15.
UH freshman forward Sammis Reyes, who rejoined the team on Thursday, did not suit up for the opener.
The Rainbow Classic continues Saturday with UH taking on Cal State Bakersfield at 7:30 p.m.
In Friday’s first game, High Point pulled out a 100-99 win over CS Bakersfield in quadruple overtime.