It does not matter whether he starts or not. Hawaiʻi senior forward Mike Thomas still finds a way to produce, managing to lead all scorers and finishing the game with 18 points off the bench.
UC Riverside pulled off its first win in the Big West after losing all previous eight games against other teams in the conference.
The Rainbow Warriors had its offensive struggles during the first half shooting 33 percent from the field and 18 percent from three-point range. They still had something to hang their hat on with 12 offensive rebounds compared to UC Riverside’s 2 offensive rebounds. UH took its first lead of the game on a three-pointer by sophomore guard Leland Green to put the ‘Bows up 13–12 with 12:54 remaining in the first half.
The combination of hustle, size and rebounding tenacity helped to keep UH relevant, finishing the half with a score of 30-30. UCR head coach Dennis Cutts ended the first half with a technical foul after yelling at one of the referees after the first half buzzer sounded. Senior forward Mike Thomas ended up leading the Rainbow Warriors in the first half scoring six points.
Around three minutes into the second half, the Rainbow Warriors took out starting junior guard Brocke Stepteau after he was called for his third foul. With Mike Thomas starting the second half, the Rainbow Warriors were able to keep the lead up until UC Riverside’s Chance Murray hit a free throw to put Riverside up 50–49 with 7:04 left in the game. The rest of the game went down to the wire with each team exchanging clutch baskets. UCR’s Menno Dijkstra sealed the game making two free throws. UC Riverside ended up winning 64–60 and sent the Rainbow Warriors its fourth straight loss. This loss caused the Warriors to sink to 4–5 in the Big West Conference and 13–9 overall.
In his first start of the season, freshman forward Samuta Avea ended up as the second leading rebounder with seven rebounds. Junior forward Jack Purchase racked up 10 more rebounds.
When asked about the team's recent troubles, 'Bows head coach Eran Ganot said, “We have been a little out of sorts. They deserved to be in the lineup."
Both Ganot and Thomas agreed when asked about the changed lineup which marked the first start of the season for forwards Zigmars Raimo and Avea.
UH hopes to snap its four-game losing streak as they host Cal State Northridge (5–19 Overall, 2–8 in Big West) on Saturday at 7 p.m.