The Honolulu Star-Advertiser Further Review column
Feb 24, 2013 (The Honolulu Star-Advertiser - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The University of Hawaii somehow turned a basketball game against Northern Arizona into an event. A great one.
I figured UH would win handily, which it did, 84-50. But I wasn't expecting much as far as a crowd and atmosphere. Hawaii was coming off two road losses and the 10-17 Lumberjacks made me think of sawing logs ... as in snoring.
But I underestimated the power of The Force. It helped attract 5,500 for a meaningless game against a weak nonconference opponent.
The first "Star Wars" movie hit the theaters more than 35 years ago, while I was in high school. It grew over generations into an enduring cultural icon, and it was a brilliant move to make this game's theme Star Wars Night ... because, really, what else did it have going for it
Well, as it turns out, the 5 p.m. start -- caused only by the necessity of Northern Arizona having to fly back to the mainland -- was great, too. It didn't hurt the gate at all, and the prospect of getting home by 8 p.m. made it more of a family night.
Vander Joaquim, who scored 20 points, and Jace Tavita, who had eight assists and one turnover, said they liked starting the game two hours earlier than usual.
There have been many games this season where the Rainbows appeared sluggish at the start, even against inferior competition. Not on this night, er, early evening. UH made its first eight shots, and coach Gib Arnold counted 10 defensive stops in a row in the early going.
"It made a (positive) difference for me," Joaquim said. "At 5 o'clock we're normally practicing. So I was kind of used to it. We're usually sitting around waiting."
You could make an argument that starting early takes away some of the home-court advantage, since 7 p.m. is 9 p.m. for jet-lagged teams from California. But if the atmosphere can always be as electric as it was for this pre-dusk tip-off, why not start every home Saturday game at 5 or 6 p.m.
Athletic director Ben Jay said he will at least consider early starts in the future. "We will have to think about it, will check with our TV partner."
Arnold said getting started early on Saturday is good because the play is sharper and it helps bring families to the arena.
And he's especially pumped about the vibrant student section. Maybe all those lightsabers had something to do with NAU shooting 50 percent from the line in the second half. In a future game that could make the difference.
"We are their team. This is their team," Arnold said. "My vision is they're lining up the night before. ... We'll bring 'em steak and lobster. The first guy who camps out, I'll bring him to Hy's."
It can't always be Star Wars Night. As one friend says, "They should do a 'Baywatch' theme and start the game at 9 p.m."
Regardless ... hey, Manoa Maniacs, bring those lightsabers back for every game.
Joaquim, who was introduced as Vader instead of Vander, said he didn't know anything about Darth Vader. The Angolan had never seen "Star Wars," but will now.
Maybe it's time to change the team nickname again.
Jedi Knights, anyone
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