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Senior Warriors go out with a win

There really is no place like Hawaii.

On a night that started with a show of respect for a long-tenured senior, and ended with a show of gratitude for three departing seniors, the Hawaii basketball team capped its regular-season home schedule with a celebratory 76-70 victory over New Mexico State on Saturday night.

Fueled by an energetic crowd of more than 8,100 at the Stan Sheriff Center, the Warriors pulled away in the second half, then held off a late charge by the Aggies.

Hawaii, which has now won eight of its last 10 games, improved to 17-10 overall and moved into a tie for fifth place in the Western Athletic Conference at 7-7. The Warriors opened the WAC season 0-5, including an 18-point loss at New Mexico State.

The Aggies were in second place entering the game, but they dropped to 14-15 overall and into third place at 8-6.

“Great crowd, great atmosphere, and we’re having a fun time right now,” Hawaii head coach Gib Arnold said. “We’re enjoying this journey. We’ve had a special year, but we think we can even make more this year.”

The Warriors have two regular-season road games remaining (at San Jose State and at Fresno State next week). Hawaii’s position in the final standings will determine its seeding for the WAC Tournament at Las Vegas, March 9-12.

The Warriors have a shot at moving up to fourth place, which would include a first-round bye in the tournament.

“We wanted to win this one for the seniors,” junior guard Zane Johnson said. “Every win is important at this time of the year because it gives us momentum going into the WAC (Tournament), but this one was a little more special because that’s the way you should send off your seniors.”

Johnson led the way, scoring 22 points, including 6-of-12 shooting from 3-point range. His last 3 of the game came with 1:33 remaining, and it secured the victory. Moments earlier, New Mexico State rallied to cut a 13-point Hawaii lead down to 67-63. Johnson’s 3 pushed the lead up to 70-63, and the Aggies never got closer than six after that.

“I was hunting my shot throughout the night and it was falling,” Johnson said. “Miah (Ostrowski) and Bobby (Miles) and the other guys were finding me when I was open. Anything I do isn’t possible without those guys because they’re the ones who get me the ball.”

Sophomore center Vander Joaquim also came up big, finishing with 18 points, 15 rebounds and five blocked shots. He shot 7 for 10 from the field, and 4 of 4 on free throws.

Bill Amis – one of the three seniors playing their final home game – contributed 14 points and 11 rebounds. He also played a key defensive role, helping limit New Mexico State forward Troy Gillenwater to six points on 2-of-10 shooting.

Gillenwater entered the game ranked second in the WAC in scoring with 19.9 points per game.

Defense has been a key during Hawaii’s recent run of success, and Amis has played a pivotal role in the post. In the last two games, he was primarily responsible for limiting Gillenwater and Lousiana Tech’s Olu Ashaolu to a combined 13 points. Both those players are considered All-WAC candidates, and Amis put himself in consideration as well with his recent performances.

“This is the end for home, but our season still has a long way to go, I feel,” Amis said.

Hawaii’s other two seniors – Douglas Kurtz and Hiram Thompson – also made unexpected contributions.

Kurtz made his first start of the season, and finished with two points, two rebounds and a blocked shot in an exciting four minutes. The crowd cheered wildly every time he made a play.

One significant play for Kurtz was winning the opening tip, because it allowed Hawaii to call a timeout five seconds into the game.

Thompson, who has an injured left elbow and was not expected to play, started the game at point guard as a sign of respect from the Hawaii coaches. After Kurtz won the opening tip, Thompson grabbed the ball and called timeout. He then left the game and did not play the rest of the way.

“That was fun for me,” he said. “I’m grateful coach wasted a timeout on me to just give me a second or two in there. I just wanted to be out there to show my gratitude to everybody.”

While it was “Senior Night,” Hawaii’s future was also on display as three freshmen made key contributions. Trevor Wiseman started at forward and had nine points, five rebounds and three steals; Bo Barnes scored seven points, including 4-of-4 free-throw shooting in the final minute; Bobby Miles did not score but had two assists and ran the Hawaii offense for 14 minutes while Miah Ostrowski was in foul trouble.

Ostrowski had an off-shooting night, finishing with two points on 1-of-9 shooting, but he passed for seven assists.

Hawaii shot 45.2 percent from the field while limiting New Mexico State to 36.1 percent. The Warriors also our-rebounded the Aggies, 42-30.

Photos by Brandon Flores. To view more photos or purchase copies, please visit www.brandonfloresphotography.com

8 Comments

  1. Exciting and fun game tonight. The crowd was jacked and our boys came to play their best ball. Wish it could’ve been a sellout but I guess 8000 was good. Vander was a man possessed and Zane was in the Zone with the 3-ball. If they can keep playing this way the next two games we should win those and then the WAC tourney.

  2. great aloha send off to the seniors.

    those three, who were captains as well, were a steadying factor in the development of this otherwise young team. the paved the way on defense as they busted their rears and made many defensive stops and plays.

    amis will be playing overseas somewhere. thompson will probably become a coach somewhere. kurtz could also land in europe or the wwe.

    yup, jd needs to get out the contract extension forms out real quick. the gibber will soon become a hot commodity. lets hope he’ll let all of his kids graduate at punahou before he pulls up his roots.

  3. this could be one of the great turnarounds by a rainbow warrior basketball team ever.
    going from 10-20 to possibly 20-10…who’d a thunk?

  4. gotta love it when zane johnson went over to “grab on to” his head coach in an effort to calm him down durng a heated moment at game’s end. the fiery courtside demeanor of our head coach has kept his team focused throughout the season especially while on defense.

    but, that moment was special to witness as johnson went over to quickly embrace and lead his coach back to the bench. there was an example of how much the gibber means to his players it showed a lot of love right there and then.

    …nuff said

  5. Great game last night. Right around the time Miah joined the team our whole season somehow turned around with Vander developing into a double-double machine and Amis getting fully healthy. Wiseman has been playing hard too for us. His size and versatility is a major plus. Thomas is good, but until he learns to control himself on offense he won’t see more time. I think he’ll have to work on that this summer.

    The last 2 minutes of the game were bad though. Wiseman’s alley-oop attempt and our inability to get the ball in will cause us problems later on. Barnes fouled twice at the end when he really shouldn’t have. It was good to see Gib so upset about that. Even toward the last 5-6 minutes, we had some really sloppy and bad possessions. I’m sure Arnold will help us fix those.

    This team has come so far. Earlier in the year I thought we’d be lucky to win 10 games. We played so many teams that weren’t that great and the WAC season looked like another bad one, but somehow Gib has led us. We’re seeing more sets on offense that work and I think next year is our break out year, 25 wins and a good shot at a WAC title. Give ’em Gib!!!!

  6. Another great win!:) This team just feeds off of Coach’s energy. This coach knows how to send out positive vibes to his players. It’s fun to watch!

  7. Gib please watch the blood pressure ,we don’t want you collapsing on the floor like Riley did,and that was scary. The young men will make mistakes but dont get a stroke , Aloha

  8. Hopefully Gib is laughing about it now. Hope Wiseman works on his alley-oop. Awesome win! Go Bows!!!

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