By Kyle Galdeira
After enduring a sluggish start, the University of Hawai‘i men’s basketball team rebounded to notch an 82-70 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the opener of the 53rd Annual Outrigger Resorts Rainbow Classic Friday night at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Senior forward Gibson Johnson led the Rainbow Warriors with 19 points, nine rebounds and five assists, while Jack Purchase added 18 points and eight assists. Mike Thomas returned to the court after taking last season off to recover from injuries, and notched 19 points and five rebounds, and led the squad with 13 made free throws.
After enduring a scoreless stretch of more than four minutes early in the second half, and braving a 14-2 run by the Golden Lions, Hawai‘i turned what was a four-point lead with 11:41 remaining in the game into a more comfortable 69-56 advantage with 6:13 to play thanks to a 13-2 run.
The Rainbow Warriors (1-0) used crisp ball movement early on to find openings in UAPB’s soft zone defense. Hawai‘i built a 46-36 halftime lead thanks in part to 11 first-half points from Johnson.
The Golden Lions (0-1) received a game-high 25 points from junior guard Martaveous McKnight, while Joe’Randle Toliver connected on five three-point buckets to keep the visitors in the game until UH opened its commanding lead late.
Both teams combined to commit 50 fouls on the evening – UAPB tallied 33 – and the Rainbow Warriors converted 28-of-42 free throw attempts resulting from frequent trips to the charity stripe.
In Friday’s tournament opener, North Dakota downed Troy 83-80. Hawai‘i will take on North Dakota on Sunday at 5 p.m., and will face Troy on Monday at 7 p.m. to wrap up the tourney at the Stan Sheriff Center.