Hawaii men’s basketball: 100th Season Best-Team Bracket, Round of 16, Day 2

Alika Smith and Anthony Carter savored their win over No. 2 Kansas to take the Rainbow Classic on Dec. 30, 1997. / Star-Advertiser file photo by Dennis Oda

Some 44 and 50 years separate the teams in the two pairings on Day 2 of the Hawaii basketball 100th Season Best-Team Bracket.

All the more interesting, as far as we’re concerned.

Voting goes live at 6 a.m. (HST) Friday morning. As with the ROUND OF 16 DAY 1, you can vote directly at the Hawaii Warrior World Twitter page or in the polls that will be embedded below.

Because we’re allowing voting for 48 hours for these first-round pairings, the polls are still open for the Day 1 matchups for another 24 hours. Turnout has been good; thank you to everyone who’s participated so far. If you haven’t voted yet, please feel free. We’re hopeful you’ll keep making your opinions heard over the course of the coming days.

Now we head to the bottom left quadrant of the bracket.

The top 16 Hawaii basketball teams of all-time among 100 seasons played to date.

The first pairing today fittingly features a “Fabulous Five” team at the No. 5 slot, the 1970-71 squad that captured the imagination of the Hawaii faithful, against the plucky, 12th-seeded never-say-die 2014-15 team that proved plenty of people wrong in racking up 22 wins in the face of a sudden coaching change and an NCAA probe, and coming within a half of making the NCAA Tournament. Then, it’s UH’s winningest team of the pre-college era, the 13th-seeded 1947-48 squad that notched the Rainbows’ first win against a college foe, taking on the favorite of this bracket quadrant, the fourth-seeded “Dynamic Duo”-led squad of 1997-98 that achieved the single biggest upset in program history.

MATCHUP NO. 1
5. 1970-71 (23-5, NIT second round)

John Penebacker battled Georgia Tech for the ball in February of 1971. / Star-Advertiser file

Bob Nash skied for a rebound against Alaska-Fairbanks in February of 1971. / Star-Advertiser file

The names will never be forgotten by UH fans, and Hawaii schoolkids learned them before the names of the islands: Bob Nash, John Penebacker, Al Davis, Jerome “Hook” Freeman and Dwight Holiday, collectively known as The Fabulous Five; they were all from the continental United States, but coached by Red Rocha, a Hilo High grad and former NBA All-Star and champion. The aloha-print clad ‘Bows first showed glimpses of something special when they beat rival BYU in the Rainbow Classic. Davis (a high school teammate of Freeman from Chicago) led UH with 18.9 points per game and all five averaged in double-figure scoring. Nash averaged 12.9 rebounds and grabbed 25 rebounds in a win at Rhode Island, a record that he’d top twice the following year. Other signature wins included a title-clincher over BYU for UH’s first Rainbow Classic championship, two home victories over Georgia Tech, as well as at Arizona State and at Pepperdine. There were close losses at Loyola, St. John’s and San Diego State. UH was 18-0 at the Blaisdell until losing to Centenary in the second day of a back-to-back, 67-66 in the home finale on Feb. 27. The Rainbows nonetheless earned their first-ever NIT bid, and beat Oklahoma 88-87 in double-overtime, before losing to St. Bonaventure in the second round. The Five were durable; all five played all 28 games, and they averaged well over 30 minutes each. The team averaged 90.3 points per game, outscoring opponents by around 15.
Roster: Davis, Tim DeSilva, Freeman, Holiday, Todd Huber, Steve Johns, Mike Kendall, Nash, Tom Newell, Penebacker, Dennis Sallas, Mark Skillicorn, Bob Titchenal.

VS.

12. 2014-15 (22-13)

Hawaii seniors Garrett Nevels and Brandon Jawato stood with interim coach Benjy Taylor after a senior night loss to UC Santa Barbara on March 4, 2015. / Star-Advertiser file photo by Jamm Aquino

Try as they might, Isaac Fleming and UH could not get past 7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye and UC Irvine in the Big West tournament championship. / Star-Advertiser file photo by Darrell Miho

This team made the best of a trying situation. With the program under NCAA investigation, head coach Gib Arnold was fired days before the start of the season, leaving top assistant Benjy Taylor in charge. Also, star forward Isaac Fotu — expected to be the centerpiece of this squad — left the team amid speculation that he would be suspended as part of the investigation. Despite what could euphemistically be described as “distractions,” the ‘Bows thrived on the court. … Yes, a 62-54 loss to High Point in the third game of the season was certainly a low point, but there weren’t many of them. By Valentine’s Day, the Rainbows had built an 18-9 record and had yet to lose two games in a row. By playing with reckless abandon, wins included 74-70 over Pitt on Maui, and, in the Rainbow Classic, 66-58 over Nebraska and 69-66 against Colorado (sandwiching an 80-79 OT loss to No. 11 Wichita State). … Some fans called for Taylor to be named permanent head coach. UC Irvine, however, was one hurdle UH could not overcome. The ‘Bows lost to the Anteaters three times, including in the Big West tournament final, 67-58. … Senior guard Garrett Nevels was a solid leader, freshman guard Isaac Fleming was a precocious talent, and Negus Webster-Chan was an undersized but skilled 4 man. Several underclassmen — Roderick Bobbitt, Stefan Jankovic, Mike Thomas, Quincy Smith and Aaron Valdes (13.7 points, 5.3 rebounds both team highs) — would form the core of the team that would finally win an NCAA Tournament game the next year. But, in the spring of 2015, UH basketball stayed home, and Taylor no longer had a job at Manoa.
Roster: Bobbitt, Dyrbe Enos, Niko Filipovich, Fleming, Jankovic, Brandon Jawato, Stefan Jovanovic, Nevels, Smith, Thomas, Valdes, Webster-Chan.

——————

MATCHUP NO. 2
13. 1947-48 (24-3)

The starting five for the 1947-48 Rainbows for the second game of the season against a team from the aircraft carrier Valley Forge. They are Bobby Kau, Bobby Wong, George Malama, Bill Young and Ed “Hotdog” Loui. / Star-Advertiser file

Bobby Kau, at 5 feet 6, was the Rainbows’ respected floor general. / Star-Advertiser file

Hawaii did not have a basketball team — or “quintet” as they were often known in those days — for four seasons following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Its second squad after the end of World War II had a new coach in Art Gallon. He was the first to lead the Rainbows to 20 or more wins, and he did it the first three of his four seasons at the UH helm. Multi-sport athletes were the norm 70 years ago, and football stars Harry “Clown” Kahuanui and Richard Mamiya were among the hoops stalwarts. Thankfully Mamiya never suffered a debilitating hand injury in either sport, as he went on to save hundreds if not thousands of lives in later decades as a world-class researcher and practitioner of heart surgery. UH then played in a league that included teams from Pearl Harbor and HPD. Still, the ‘Bows notched a huge 47-34 road win Feb. 21 at Seattle, the first win over a collegiate opponent in program history. It featured Hawaii controlling the tempo after taking an early lead, pulling away early in the second half, and then stalling again to frustrate the hosts. UH’s slowdown was controlled by diminutive (5 foot 6) guard Bobby Kau, a former merchant mariner. “The little showman kept the ball going for nearly two minutes in one stretch,” according to an Associated Press report that appeared in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. “Seattle College broke it up by setting three men on the tiny tormenter.” … That was the first of a five-game road trip to the Pacific Northwest that featured multiple national reports of the Rainbows players pitching in to buy an ukulele that cost less in Seattle than it would have back home. … A 49-46 win over Southern Oregon (which had entered the game 26-1) generated less publicity. Ed “Hotdog” Loui and Bill Young were other key members of this team from the islands that was described in one report as “wily.” After the next season, UH made it to the NAIA Tournament, but lost to North Dakota State 70-53 in the first round.
Roster: Not available.

VS.

4. 1997-98 (21-9, NIT quarterfinals)

Erin Galloway jammed on a drive past Indiana’s William Gladness in the 1997-98 season opener on Nov. 28, 1997. / Star-Advertiser file photo by Dennis Oda

Chris Herren, a Hawaii nemesis, ended the season of the Rainbow Warriors in the NIT quarterfinals at the Stan Sheriff Center by scoring 35 points in Fresno State’s 85-83 win. / Star-Advertiser file photo

When Anthony Carter and Alika Smith came back for their senior year, the secret was out; they were touted as one of the best backcourt tandems in the nation. It didn’t matter, however, that coaching legends Bobby Knight and Roy Williams knew this; the UH guards and their teammates beat Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers 82-65 on opening night and then — in what remains 23 years later the biggest upset in UH’s program history — the Rainbows knocked off Williams’ No. 2-ranked Kansas Jayhawks 76-65 in the Rainbow Classic on the day before New Year’s Eve. That made the ‘Bows 10-1 and earned them the No. 21 spot in the AP poll. But then came conference play, and Hawaii was not much better than a .500 team the rest of the way. It finished the WAC regular season strong with five straight wins, but then lost to UNLV in the first round of the league tournament. After victories over Arizona State and Gonzaga, UH lost to Fresno State in another NIT quarterfinals disappointment. Smith (18.3 points, 67 3s made) and Carter (18.2, 7.3 assists, 2.2 steals) were again excellent throughout the season. Names like Erin Galloway, Eric Ambrozich and Micah Kroeger are just as recognizable with this group, and Mike Robinson was the captain. Carter’s 212 assists is the program’s season record for total dimes and he was just behind all-time leader Reggie Carter (7.4 per game) in assist average (7.3). But Hawaii had just six rebounds, total, more than its opponents over the course of 30 games. A.C. Carter went on to play 13 NBA seasons, while Smith went on to become an assistant coach at UH and at the high school level.
Roster: Ambrozich, Carter, Casey Cartwright, Galloway, Rahula Hall, Chad Hook, Kroeger, Luke Meyers, Greg Miller, Brian Moeller, Dean Penebacker, Mike Robinson, Robbie Robinson, Kelii Silva, Smith, Ales Zivanovic.

——————
Brian McInnis and Dave Reardon assembled the season summaries. Curtis Murayama designed the 100th season bracket.

COMMENTS

  1. Matt Motter March 20, 2020 3:59 am

    It was BS that the 98 team didn’t go to the dance.


  2. rage March 20, 2020 8:38 am

    That Kansas game was the loudest I have heard the Stan. Seeing the look on Paul Pierce’s face was the best moment.
    I only remember that 98 team from the good moments, because that February is when I moved to the mainland and never saw them losing.


  3. Casual Observer March 20, 2020 10:03 am

    Choosing winners and losers really tough because you spent all your time cheering for each to win. Now against each other, when often times a win is by one point or a last second shot, its really difficult. The Fab Five will always be the team by which all other teams are measured but the team featuring Bobbit & co. also is a team of over-achievers and swag. Including “Batman” and “Robin”, these were some of the teams that were most watchable IMHO.


  4. turfwar March 20, 2020 11:44 am

    As a season ticket holder since the 70’s, I don’t know about best, but for me the most talented team ever assembled at UH by far is the 75-76 team. Reggie Carter 6’3 Fr PG, Henry Hollingsworth 5’11 soph SG, George Lett 6’7 Fr SF, Mel Werts 6’9 Sr PF, and Tommy Barker 7’0 Jr C. The games at the Blaisdell against the original Fab Five of freshmen at USF was amazing. UH will never see that kind of talent again.


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