By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
The University of Hawaii men’s basketball team tips off its 2021-22 regular season this Wednesday against UH-Hilo. As always, ESPN Honolulu (92.7 FM/1420 AM) will bring you the game live from SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center. Our pregame show will start at 7:00 p.m. Tip-off is set for 7:00.
We dug into the record books and selected five of Hawaii’s most memorable season openers:
Dec. 3, 1970 – HAWAII 81, WHITTIER 72: Ephraim “Red” Rocha struggled in his first seven seasons as the the basketball program’s head coach, compiling a 50-117 record. Things were about to change in Year 8. On this opening night, Bob Nash, Jerome Freeman, Dwight Holiday, Al Davis and John Penebacker – collectively known as the “Fabulous Five” – played together for the very first time. Freeman led the Hawaii scoring with 21 points (going 9 for 11 from the field), while Nash added 18. Penebacker was tops in rebounding with 12 boards, with Nash and Al Davis each contributing 8.
Nov. 25, 1983 – HAWAII 92, HARDIN-SIMMONS 86: This wasn’t just a game. It was literally a game and a half. The Rainbow Warriors pulled out a grueling Hawaii Tip-Off Tournament victory over the Cowboys in a contest that took four overtimes. In that final OT, former Moanalua standout Sam Johnson banked in a short jumper to put the Rainbow Warriors ahead, 82-80, and Hawaii never looked back. Forward Jack Miller led the UH effort with 28 points and 15 rebounds. Andre Morgan added 17 points and six assists. Trivia Note: The tournament featured two future NBA players in McNeese State’s Joe Dumars (now a Basketball Hall of Famer) and Cal State Fullerton’s Leon Wood (a 1984 U.S. Olympian and current NBA referee).
Nov. 25, 1993 – PORTLAND 100, HAWAII 47: You know that saying about first impressions? The 1993-94 edition of the Rainbow Warriors could not have gotten off to a worse start, getting blown out by 53 points to Portland in the opening round of the Great Alaska Shootout. “It was a nightmare,” UH head coach Riley Wallace told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. “Everything that could go wrong for us – did.” Hawaii shot just 33 percent from the field and were manhandled on the boards, 58-28. Trevor Ruffin had 19 points, but no other UH player reached double figures. (The next day, Hawaii would fall again, this time to Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons were led by Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, who put up 12 points and 12 boards against the ’Bows.) But here’s the good news: This Hawaii team would go on to win the WAC Tournament and earn the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth in more than 20 years.
Nov. 28, 1997 – HAWAII 82, INDIANA 65: Led by the “Dynamic Duo” of Anthony Carter and Alika Smith, Hawaii stunned No. 21 Indiana in front of a boisterous sold-out crowd at the Stan Sheriff Center. Carter poured in 23 points and dished seven assists. Smith, a Kalaheo alum, added 22 points including a game-high four three-pointers. In his Rainbow Warrior debut, Erin “The Helicopter” Galloway contributed 10 points and eight rebounds. Hoosiers head coach Bob Knight was gracious in defeat, telling a Star-Bulletin reporter, “I thought Hawaii played the way I wish we would play. They were very aggressive. Their kids played really, really hard. The coaches did a great job of getting them ready; a much better job obviously than I think we did.”
Nov. 19, 2005 – HAWAII 84, MICHIGAN STATE 62: Riley Wallace doesn’t remember his 100th win as UH head coach, and he doesn’t recall his 200th. But it’s safe to say he won’t ever forget No. 300. On this night, in front of nearly 9,000 fans at the Stan Sheriff Center, Hawaii crushed No. 4-ranked Michigan State, a team that reached the NCAA Final Four the previous season. The Rainbow Warriors took the lead five minutes into the game and never relinquished it. In his UH debut, guard Matt Lojeski dropped six three-pointers against the Spartans. Kalaheo alum Julian Sensley also had 20 points. Center Ahmet Gueye contributed 13 points and six rebounds. Iolani product Bobby Nash, the son of Bob Nash, had 10 points. Said Sensley after the game: “I’ve never experienced anything like it. This is what we all dream of in high school, playing in this kind of atmosphere.”