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UPDATED: Warriors get “best win of the year” at Idaho

Any road win is a big win for the Hawai’i basketball team, but head coach Gib Arnold was especially pleased after the Warriors’ 76-70 victory at Idaho on Saturday night.

“I think the best win of the year,” is how Arnold described it. “(Wins over) New Mexico State was huge, Xavier was huge, Clemson, but I think this was the best win for us. Tough environment and tough coming off a grinder game in Logan (Utah) and to be able to come in here and win … a grind-it-out defensive battle, I’m thrilled to death. The guys stepped up and were men tonight.”

A crowd of 1,926 at the Cowan Spectrum in Moscow, Idaho, watched the Warriors take control of the tight game in the final eight minutes. Most important, the Warriors climbed back into the top half of the Western Athletic Conference.

Hawai’i is 12-9 overall and 4-3 in the WAC. Idaho dropped to 11-10 and 4-3. Both teams – and Utah State – are tied for third place in the conference. Nevada (7-0) and New Mexico State (5-2) are the only teams ahead at the halfway point of the conference season.

Coming off a road loss at Utah State on Thursday, the Warriors responded with their hottest shooting game of the season – 27 of 48 field goal shooting for 56.3 percent. And they did it in team fashion, with four players scoring in double figures.

Junior center Vander Joaquim led the way with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Junior forward Joston Thomas added 16 points, including three powerful dunks. Joaquim and Thomas also grabbed nine rebounds each, leading the Warriors to a 32-25 advantage on the boards.

Thomas also passed for a team-high four assists, and came up with two crucial defensive plays late in the game that Arnold said “affected winning.”

First, Thomas blocked a dunk attempt by Idaho center Kyle Barone that could have tied the game with less than six minutes remaining. Then in the final minute, Thomas drew a charging foul.

“Joston, of all people,” Arnold said with a laugh. “I said in the locker room, I don’t think I would ever say two positive defensive things about Joston. Huge block and then taking the charge. That affected winning and that’s what we have to do.”

While Joaquim and Thomas took care of the post, Zane Johnson and Hauns Brereton contributed from the perimeter. Johnson scored 16 points, including 4-for-4 free-throw shooting in the closing seconds to help clinch the win. Brereton, making just his fifth start of the season, scored 15 points, including 3-of-6 shooting from 3-point range.

“We were sharing the ball and didn’t turn it over, just grinded out a win,” Arnold said. “For me, it was beautiful basketball. I just love how we guarded there at the end … there wasn’t one guy that just stepped up. It was the whole team.”

The game was close from start to finish, and it featured seven lead changes. Idaho held a 36-35 lead at intermission, and increased it to 49-45 with 15:23 remaining in the second half.

The Warriors took the lead for good after Johnson drained a 3-pointer to put Hawaii up, 62-60 with 8:18 remaining. Idaho had a chance to tie it late, but Deremy Geiger missed a 3-point attempt, and the Warriors went on to convert 6 of 6 free throws in the final 40 seconds to secure the road win.

“We couldn’t get the stops,” Idaho head coach Don Verlin said. “I thought we played well enough offensively. I thought we got a number of good looks. The bottom line is right now, we’re not defending it well enough in conference play.”

Geiger, who entered the game ranked second in the WAC with 60 3-pointers, finished with a season-low four points, including 0-of-6 shooting from 3-point range.

Djim Bandoumel led the Vandals with 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting. “It’s very frustrating right now,” Bandoumel said. “We were right there – just a couple missed baskets, missed executions.”

The Warriors are scheduled to return to Honolulu on Sunday, and will be at home only for a few days to practice and catch up on class work. Hawai’i’s next game will again be on the road – February 4 at San Jose State.

“Now we can go home and feel good about where we’re at and we have a whole week to prepare for San Jose State on the road,” Arnold said.

(WarriorInsider.com file photos courtesy Brandon Flores)

11 Comments

  1. MID-TERM

    Of the Teams at the Top — thru the Tie for Third Place — Hawai’i has already played #1 Nevada and # 3’s Utah St. and Idaho On The Road …The Warriors played them All Tough on the road and gets to Challenge for the Split or in Idaho’s case the Sweep @ Home …

    Of the three WAC Season second half road games, only #2 New Mexico State is in the upper half; we already defeated them at home — a good, tough challenge @ NMSU; should match up and be able to play well @ SJSU & LA Tech….

    With Four Home Games, Three against the Upper Half, the remaining WAC schedule looks ‘favorable’ or at least has potential for the Warriors to move up in the league standings headed into the WAC Tournament…

  2. Super win by the ‘Bows! This team is really starting to be able to grind out some good wins on the road. Hauns is starting to really break out of his shell.. Now, if the same could only be said about some of the reserve point guards, we are going to be scary come WAC Tourney time..

  3. O.K. — Since they’ve been called out (i wasn’t going to start);

    There’s “No Reason” they shouldn’t be able to step in, hit one or three Critical Threes — Yes — Practice All Week (one, two, three extra hours if needed) —

    OR — Hit One or Two Key Passes to allow another player to score the “Easy” Basket (At Least Easier than your Three or off-balanced drive or whatever other option you’ve got) — i’ve been watching and i think this team is pretty good at Receiving And Converting Good Passes — [Evidence: #1 in WAC Assists, Great Field Goal Percentages];

    AND — Control and Move the Ball Up-Court Safely, and Preferably Rapidly, to get a Good Chance at a Transition Basket or Open Uncontested Jumper …

    AND Make Most (3 of 4 or Better) of the Free-Throws esp. Late Game.
    Shaq already seems to have “Mastered” and Enjoys This —
    Along with Key Clock Winding Down Threes: Daggers !

    I’m pretty sure they already know this — and are improving …

    As Guys like Vander, Joston over two seasons, and Hauns & Miah in the past few weeks, Keep Upping their game …. these are some of the things that will make UH Even Tougher To Beat (or Even Hang With )

  4. Agreed, Eagle. We definitely have quirks which continue to dog us, but, like you said, it has been fun to watch them improve over the last season and a half. I love how this team has worked together for the last few games, win or lose. Anyway, awesome win and I’m really happy to see Joston’s game mature more with every game.

  5. There were many good vibes coming out of the win against Idaho: Better free throw shooting, not turning the ball over in crucial situations, and totally dominating the inside. But what set this win apart from the others is the fact that all starting players contributed to the victory and stayed patient and played within their capabilities. I don’t think Joston took any shots beyond the arc and his game just keeps improving. And the shooters were patient and waited for the open shots. Even Miah stepped up and drained the wide open 3. Offensively they executed brilliantly. Will be interesting if they can top this game. Hope they will. It is safe to say that these guys will be the starting 5 for the rest of the season. This team needs Brereton as the second shooter. He is the last piece of the puzzle. The 5 as well as the bench are steadily improving. Guys are stepping up at the end. This WAC championship is up for grabs and is there for the taking. Lalala I dreaming we going dancing into the night hahaha.

  6. Who sponsorʻs our coaching shirts? Can we please stop wearing blue? That would be great, thanks.

    Galvanizing win for sure. Needed that one to make up for LaTech. Go Bows.

  7. Couch Coach, go to Reyns and get them the UH logo shirts -Gib, Fisher, Akana, Benjy and Rupp.Break out your charge card .

  8. It’s great to see the guys stepping up and play to their potential, especially in critical situations. That Idaho win was really something.
    Go Warriors!

  9. I agree with jjay. Couch coach, here is the link to the Reyn’s UH logo shirt: http://www.reynspooner.com/shop/classic-collection/classic-collegiate/university-of-hawaii-461.html – I look forward to seeing the coaches wearing this soon! Great win in Idaho. Joston played a monster game. Those back to back dunks along with the block and charge at crunch time…I think this was Joston’s best all-around game of his career!

  10. One thing I like about this year’s Warriors squad is how resilient they’ve been. They lost a close one to Auburn, then bounced back to beat an even better Xavier team. Lost a tough one to LA Tech, then bounced back to beat NMSU. Lost another tough one at Utah State, then bounced back to get the W at Idaho.

    The team just gotta take care of business this Saturday at SJSU. No letdowns. Then when Nevada comes to town next Thursday, let’s hope the Stanley is ROCKING. If they can win that game, watch out WAC!

  11. No video highlights?..Good luck against San jose St…Nevada will be ranked when they get to Hawaii….Gettum Warriors!..

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