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Warriors score inspiring win over Utah

A sore back wasn’t enough to prevent Hiram Thompson from putting the Hawaii basketball team on his back in a 68-55 victory over Utah on Thursday night at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Thompson’s status was in question prior to the game due to his injured back. Instead, he played 34 minutes, scored 13 points, had two assists, and controlled a Hawaii offense that constantly attacked.

“We don’t win without him,” Hawaii head coach Gib Arnold said.

The Warriors improved to 8-3, including 1-1 in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic. Hawaii will meet Mississippi State for fifth place on Saturday at 11:30 a.m.

Utah dropped to 7-5.

“It’s a huge win for us,” Thompson said. “They’re a Mountain West team and we showed that we can play with teams that are big time.”

Junior guard Zane Johnson led the Warriors with 17 points and continued on his hot shooting streak. He went 4 of 5 from 3-point range against Utah, and is 10 for 16 from beyond the arc in the two games of the Diamond Head Classic.

Joston Thomas added 15 points, including a highlight reel dunk over Utah’s 7-foot-3 center David Foster.

“Actually, it was a play for me to shoot the 3, because the big dude was on me,” Thomas said of his first-half dunk. “He came out a little bit too far, so I was like I’m not going to shoot a 3 over a 7-footer when I can take him, so I just took him.”

Foster finished fourth in the nation in blocked shots last season, and was named the Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

The dunk came just before halftime, and gave the Warriors a 37-33 lead at intermission. Hawaii kept the momentum after that, going on a 10-2 run to open the second half and stayed in control the rest of the way.

Hawaii led by as many as 16 points in the second half, and sealed the win at the free throw line. The Warriors went 27 of 37 on free throws, while Utah went 16 of 24.

“Real pleased with the effort tonight,” Arnold said. “That’s a great win for our guys against a Mountain West (and future) Pac-12 team … played hard, played together, played with some inspiration. That was a lot of fun tonight.”

The inspiration came primarily from Thompson, who did not start, but entered the game with 13:46 remaining in the first half. He never returned to the bench, playing the entire second half. He missed Hawaii’s previous game – a 70-62 loss to Florida State on Wednesday – because of his sore back.

“I knew if he was going to play, he was going to have to play that much,” Arnold said. “Once I got him in there, I had to keep him in. I couldn’t rest him because then (his back) would lock up.”

True freshman Bobby Miles started at point guard, and played 14 minutes. He played all 40 minutes the night before against Florida State.

Hawaii used just seven players in the loss to Florida State. With the addition of Thompson, eight Warriors saw action in the win over Utah.

Senior forward Bill Amis remains out with a foot injury.

Utah out-rebounded Hawaii 39-29, but could manage just 10 “second chance” points off 16 offensive rebounds.

Josh Watkins led the Utes with 16 points, while Will Clyburn added 14. Utah shot just 33.3 percent from the field, including a dismal 1 for 15 (6.7 percent) from 3-point range.

The Diamond Head Classic will take Christmas Eve off, and resume on Christmas Day.

Hawaii will face a Mississippi State team that went through some turmoil on Thursday night. Just before the start of the Hawaii-Utah game, Mississippi State teammates Renardo Sidney and Elgin Bailey got into a fight in the stands of the Sheriff Center. Both players threw punches, and had to be separated by coaches and teammates.

Their status for Saturday’s game is unknown.

(Photos by Brandon Flores)

Thursday’s results
Mississippi State 69, San Diego 52
Washington State 77, Baylor 71
Butler 67, Florida State 64
Hawaii 68, Utah 55

No games scheduled Friday

Saturday’s schedule
Seventh place—San Diego vs. Utah, 9 a.m.
Fifth place—Mississippi State vs. Hawaii, 11:30 a.m.
Third place—Baylor vs. Florida State, 2:30 p.m.
Championship—Washington State vs. Butler, 4:30 p.m.

2 Comments

  1. Hiram brought inspiration, Joston brought determination and energy, and Zane was just an assassin out there. Great performance by UH. Thanks for the hard work guys, the fans appreciate what you’re doing.

  2. UPDATE…

    On Mississippi State players.

    Renardo Sidney and Elgin Bailey — the teammates who fought in the stands of the Sheriff Center — have been suspended indefinitely and sent back to Mississippi, according to ESPN.

    That means both Hawaii and Mississippi State will have short rosters when they meet on Christmas Day for the consolation title of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.

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