Kansas isn’t UH’s only Kansas anymore
JOHN Wilder was dribbling and dribbling and the clock was running and running and people kept jumping and jumping. And the noise kept growing and growing.
And then finally Wilder, Hawaii's substitute point guard, let fly. And the ball rose, up into the atmosphere, climbing, climbing. And the horn went off, and Hawaii had done it. The Rainbows had done it. Riley Wallace had done it.
UH had just beaten the No. 4 basketball team in the country. Michigan State.
People weren't quite sure what to do, then. What do you do in situations like this? Had this really happened? A few timidly stormed the court, for a few jumps, a few hugs. Then politely turned and went back to their seats.
What is the etiquette here?
Nobody knew quite what to do.
"I'm lost for words," Hawaii's Julian Sensley said.
They'd really done it. These Rainbows had their own Kansas now. They were AC and Alika, yesterday afternoon.
Old Man Winner had done it again.
Wallace knew. He'd expected it -- you could see it in the way he'd carried himself heading into this game, and then afterward. He'd seen this -- his 300th win at UH -- coming. He had prepared himself for the possibility.
We've seen him more excited after wins against Tulsa.
He was the only one unruffled.
He'd seen it, in the practices and on the film. He had something here. He knew.
"As close to a complete game as I've ever coached," Wallace said. "This can't be a flash in the pan and don't think it is."
No, Michigan State, No. 4 in the country, No. 1 by the Sporting News, on the (regional) cover of Sports Illustrated this week, just lost.
Hawaii simply made plays, hit shots.
There were calls missed and made on both ends.
"They're a very good team," Spartan star Paul Davis said. "They will be in the tournament."
"Maybe we'll get another shot at them," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo added.
He'd like that. Don't think he wouldn't. He was hot that UH fans had booed when one of his players was down. He'd seen his lineup put in a blender when Spartan after Spartan inexplicably started hobbling with cramp after cramp.
"I guess the crowd sort of tonight absorbed a lot of the air conditioning," Wallace said. And the Spartans had had to practice in Klum Gym.
"I felt like vomiting," Izzo said, of looking out and seeing a lineup that featured four freshmen at once.
On the bench, Davis, who was brilliant, buried his head in his hands.
But injuries -- or conditioning, preparation, hydration, really -- weren't the story.
These Rainbows were.
Yesterday, there was Sensley, the homegrown prodigious talent who sometimes prefers being a cog to a star, big in a huge game. As good as anyone out there. Dunking. Scoring; 20 points.
Matt Gibson, with spark off the bench. Bobby Nash, too. Ahmet Gueye, legit against a Final Four team; and Hawaii won despite his playing only 22 minutes due to fouls.
Matthew Gipson contributed, gained confidence as the game grew, stealing an alley-oop pass, seizing four offensive boards.
They all had a hand in this one, nine deep.
"The strength is everywhere," Sensley said.
Deonte Tatum. What a game he had.
"I've been trying to say that," Wallace would say.
"Even when he's sitting on the bench he's showing leadership," Wallace explained.
And Matt Lojeski. Another new guy. He hit for 20, yesterday. Did Michigan State even have a scouting report on him?
"I remember asking my guys that," Izzo said, tongue in cheek, teeth clenched. Lojeski had hit six 3s.
The biggest came with just a little more than 7 minutes left. This was after Nash banked a 3 with the shot clock running out, after Gipson chased down a loose ball then spun baseline for a layup and a foul. After Little Matt snagged a steal, then fed Nash; after Nash snagged another steal of his own.
After Hawaii made a play every time the Spartans even thought about coming back.
Lojeski launched a bomb that made the place explode, and he leaped at midcourt, swung a full roundhouse punch in the air. It was over. It was 67-50. It was already pau.
They had done it. It was happening. This was real. They were AC and Alika, on this afternoon. It was Kansas all over again.
Oh, there would be more minutes to fill, more plays to make. Gipson dunked. Sensley hit a 3. Gueye blocked one up against the glass. But all this was just frosting.
It was over with the 3.
It was real. It was Kansas all over again.
"I know the crowd was yelling 'overrated,' " Wallace would say. "They're not overrated. They'll be there."
And yet he knew.
Old Man Winner.
He must know something.
He just keeps rolling along.
"I'll remember this one," Wallace would say. "I don't know (win No.) 100 and I don't know 200. I couldn't tell you."
This one, he'll remember for good.