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Warriors get a win on Christmas

The Hawaii basketball team unwrapped an impressive victory on Christmas Day.

The Warriors defeated a beleaguered Mississippi State team, 68-57, to claim fifth place in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Hawaii went 2-1 in the tournament, and improved to 9-3 overall. The last time a Hawaii team beat a team from the Southeastern Conference (SEC) was when it beat Georgia in 2001.

“I think we showed that we can actually play,” junior guard Zane Johnson said. “I’m pretty sure a lot of people didn’t even expect us to win a game … the biggest thing is we showed that we’re not going to lay down and we’re going to build this program and make it a winner.”

Johnson had much to do with it. He scored a game-high 19 points, and also grabbed eight rebounds to lead the Warriors over the Bulldogs. In the three Diamond Head Classic games, Johnson scored 60 points and made 12 3-pointers.

“Zane has always been a shooter and we’ve spent a lot of time – probably more than he would like – talking about being a complete player,” Hawaii head coach Gib Arnold said. “And I think you’re starting to see that in Zane Johnson.”

In addition, senior point guard Hiram Thompson turned in yet another gutty performance. He scored 14 pints and had five assists while playing all 40 minutes. Just three days earlier in the opening game of the tournament, Thompson did not play a single minute due to a lower-back injury.

“Just toughing it out, not doing anything out of the ordinary, just not forcing anything,” is how Thompson explained it. “Just had to play smart out there.”

Sophomore forward Joston Thomas added 11 points and five rebounds, and sophomore center Vander Joaquim contributed nine points and 11 rebounds. Freshman forward Trevor Wiseman had nine points and eight rebounds off the bench.

The final margin of victory was 11, but the game was not even that close as the Warriors stayed in control from start to finish. Hawaii opened the game with a 12-0 lead, and was never really challenged the rest of the way.

“I was very pleased on the defensive end this game,” Arnold said. “I think we did a good job on their scorers, I think we did a good job on transition defense.”

Hawaii took a 42-23 lead at halftime, and was still able to hold off the Bulldogs despite shooting just 33.3 percent from the field in the second half (including 1 of 11 from 3-point range).

“We didn’t shoot the ball, but we were able to consistently get (defensive) stops,” Arnold said. “I believe in the first half we had nine straight stops to start the game, and then we had seven straight stops later.”

Mississippi State shot just 27.0 percent from the field for the game, including 22.6 percent in the decisive first half.

The Bulldogs played without their two biggest players – Renardo Sidney and Elgin Bailey. Both players were suspended and sent home from the trip after getting into a fistfight in the stands of the Sheriff Center while watching a game on Thursday. The incident received national attention.

Arnold said he still prepared his team for a maximum effort from the Bulldogs.

“Their best players were their guards,” Arnold said. “Their leading scorers and go-to guys were still playing and they had great athleticism. We expected a battle.”

The Bulldogs, who dropped to 8-5, were led by Kodi Augustus’ 18 points.

Hawaii’s Miah Ostrowski saw his first action of the season, logging two minutes in the first half. Less than 24 hours earlier, he was playing for the Hawaii football team in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.

Although satisfied with the team’s performance in the Diamond Head Classic, Arnold said the Warriors did not get their initial Christmas wish.

“First of all, for this program, we want to win this tournament,” Arnold said. “We did some good things to win two games, but we want to win three.”

In any case, the Warriors will not have much time to celebrate. They will open play the Western Athletic Conference season on the road on Wednesday at defending champion Utah State.

Photos by Brandon Flores — to view more photos from the Diamond Head Classic visit www.brandonfloresphotography.com

7 Comments

  1. Dayton, thank you for giving up part of your Christmas Day to write and post this story for the benefit of those of us who couldn’t make it to the game.

  2. Thanks Mongoose.

    Video highlights should be up around 6 p.m.

  3. Merry Christmas to all of you and thanks again for taking the time to visit http://www.warriorinsider.com

  4. Very good win by the Bows and continued good job on the website, Dayton..

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

  5. two of three is pretty good, especially considering the short handedness. Since I am trying to learn the game, can someone explain, why we did not use our bigs at the end of the Miss St. game. I would think that would be an advantage for us.

  6. Yes, it’s tough to give up part of Christmas Day when you have a young family, but know that your work is appreciated. Your story, of course, is solid as usual, but I’m impressed with the videos, especially how you weave the comments with the action. Takes a lot of editing, I’d assume. Keep up the good work.

  7. Another shout-out to Dayton for taking time this Christmas to cover the game. Want you to know that you’re appreciated.

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