By Brian McInnis
Time for the best crowd of the year.
Not in terms of numbers, of course. But Hawaii's 11 p.m. College Hoops Tip-off Marathon game vs. Houston Baptist should again attract the usual rowdy, younger bunch of past midnight games to make the Stan Sheriff Center come alive in front of the ESPN cameras.
UH is also trying to claim its 13th overall Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic title, and second since the Rainbow Warriors' once-signature event went to a four-team round-robin format. The tournament went on hiatus last year.
Past crowds for these midnight games have hovered right around 2,000. All seats are general admission for this one.
It's a "Blackout" night, so any fans looking to participate this evening should keep that in mind with black shirts, pants etc. Try not to bump into each other in the dark.
UH (2-0) and Houston Baptist (2-0) both shot the lights out in their Sunday games against hyphenated teams, with the Rainbow Warriors winning 84-51 over Arkansas-Pine Bluff and the Huskies prevailing 70-55 over Maryland-Eastern Shore.
Like usual, UH's game is third up in the marathon rotation. Here is ESPN's preview of what you might expect in each.
The late-night games have typically been pretty close, with the exception of last year. This year could see a return to barn-burner status with HBU of the Great West Conference looking pretty frisky in its unbeaten start. It is the first appearance on ESPN's flagship station in HBU school history.
Here's the complete list of UH Tip-Off Marathon games since they started. UH is 3-1 in this event.
2011: Hawaii 86, Cal State Northridge 67. Zane Johnson hits six 3-pointers and scores 24 points, briefly becoming a trending topic on Twitter. Trevor Wiseman adds 19 points and 16 rebounds in what was also UH's season opener because of the (temporarily) scrapped Rainbow Classic.
2010: Hawaii 65, Central Michigan 62. Bill Amis scores 17 points on 8-for-11 shooting with eight rebounds, while tourney MVP Hiram Thompson scores 15 and is assessed a technical foul on a play he had nothing to do with.
2009: Northern Colorado 81, Hawaii 75. Current 'Bow team captain Hauns Brereton was on the winning side for this one as a UNC Bear, albeit in a reserve role as a freshman. UH's ill-fated backcourt of Jeremy Lay and Dwain Williams led the way with 18 and 17 points, respectively, in the loss.
2008: Hawaii 67, Idaho State 63 (OT). It's something of a wonder UH's tie-in with the Tip-off Marathon lasted beyond this year. This one was cringe-worthy, made worse by the fact that it went five extra minutes. Both teams shot in the mid-30s and they combined for 42 turnovers. Roderick Flemings scores 17 points, including five in OT, to win it for the 'Bows.
In the early OHRC game today, UAPB defeated UMES 62-52. The Golden Lions of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) take third in the Classic at 1-2, while the Hawks of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) finish last at 0-3.
Enjoy the game, those going tonight.