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Hawaii-Hilo tests Rainbows in exhibition game


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POSTED: Saturday, October 31, 2009

It was a scary start to the 2009-10 season for the Hawaii men's basketball team — even if it began with an exhibition win.

The Hawaii-Hilo Vulcans matched the Rainbow Warriors shot for shot for 34 minutes until UH pulled away for a 76-65 victory last night at the Stan Sheriff Center.

A turnstile crowd of 2,363 watched as the undersized Vulcans gave the Rainbows everything they could handle most of the evening. Finally, the Division I hosts pulled away from their Division II Big Island counterparts with an 8-2 run to go up 70-62 with 3 minutes left, and UHH was unable to muster a counterpunch.

It took a monster effort from forward Bill Amis to keep the Rainbows afloat. The 6-foot-9 senior made good on a significant height advantage with 27 points, 12 rebounds, and five blocks. Point guard Hiram Thompson added 19 points on 11-for-12 shooting at the free-throw line and forward Roderick Flemings scored 14 in 24 minutes.

“;Our game plan was to go inside and run our offense efficiently, and at times we did and at times we had some really bad turnovers,”; said Amis, who shot 12-for-16. “;But that's just a part of the first few games, and as we get more comfortable ... we'll start clicking better.”;

Hilo came within a missed 3-pointer at the buzzer of stunning the Rainbows at the Sheriff last year, and nearly matched the feat. The game was tied at halftime, but Hawaii shot 53.8 percent in the second half compared to 30.6 percent for Hilo.

Newcomer forward Justin Smith scored 19 points to lead the Vulcans, who led by as many as five early in the second half.

“;When it got really tight, we kind of let our tails fly up a little bit,”; UHH coach Jeff Law said. “;But overall the way (we) competed, being outsized and the strength that they had, I'm satisfied with that.”;

Hawaii coach Bob Nash exhorted his team to push the ball constantly in the first half, but the Rainbows were rarely able to break end to end, and were just as likely to turn the ball over; UH had 19 giveaways compared to 12 for UHH. Part of that might have had to do with the smallish lineup the Vulcans tossed at the Rainbows — they often had a quickness advantage with their tallest player at 6-foot-7.

Nash pointed out that several of his players were out of position for much of the night. Newcomers Jeremy Lay, Dwain Williams and Douglas Kurtz were out with injuries, and just 11 suited up for the Rainbows.

“;They gave us a great test,”; Nash said. “;Our defense could have been better in the second half, but overall we got what we wanted. We wanted to get some action going up and down the floor.”;

The Rainbows needed an 8-2 run to close the first half just to get into the locker room tied at 34.

“;I thought we played hard the whole game, but in the first half we turned the ball over a lot, which was a big part of it,”; Thompson said. “;In practice we don't have enough to even run. I thought I was definitely in shape until that first 5 minutes. I was sucking wind.”;

Up next for UH is Brigham Young-Hawaii in a Thursday exhibition.