RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii's Julian Sensley threw down a dunk over Saint Louis' Anthony Drejaj in the first half of Saturday's game.
Rainbows sticking together over break
Coach Riley Wallace admires the team's determination
The first week of the season provided some important lessons for the Hawaii basketball team and coach Riley Wallace.
In three games over a week's span, the Rainbow Warriors continued to learn their roles on the court, dealt with a bit of adversity, and were reminded of the difficulty of winning on the road.
Wallace, meanwhile, got some insight into the personality of this year's squad as the Rainbows picked up home wins over Michigan State and Saint Louis sandwiched around a loss at UNLV.
"They don't fall apart, they stay together," Wallace said. "Win or lose, they've maintained their togetherness and that should win for them over the long haul if they continue to do that.
"It's the same thing in the games, they get behind but they pick it up, they don't drop their heads."
UH takes a 2-1 record into a 10-day break in the early-season schedule following a 82-64 win over Saint Louis on Saturday.
The team will have a couple of days off to recharge and get caught up on school work before returning to practice tomorrow to prepare for a Dec. 6 rematch against UNLV at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Following the high of the upset of nationally ranked Michigan State, the Rainbows quickly fell back to earth with a rough shooting night in Las Vegas. Though disappointed with the result, the players said the loss highlighted areas they needed to address in practice.
"The way (UNLV) played us was a different style than we had seen before," junior Bobby Nash said after his 13-point performance against Saint Louis. "They were up into us, taking our passing lanes away, so it was a point of emphasis this week on sealing our man and stepping out to the ball, and also crashing the boards hard. I think we gave up a lot of easy rebounds in the UNLV game, so that was definitely a point of emphasis."
The Rainbows also regained their shooting touch against Saint Louis as UH's 11 available players got into the game and 10 scored against the Billikens.
Junior forward Ahmet Gueye has given the Rainbows a presence in the post on both ends of the court in his first three Division I games. He's averaged 14.7 points on 77 percent shooting (20-for-26) and blocked eight shots.
Forward Julian Sensley came back from the worst game of his UH career to lead the Rainbows with 22 points on 10-for-18 shooting from the field.
After a 1-for-17 night behind the 3-point line against UNLV, UH hit 11 of 22 3-pointers on Saturday, led by Matt Lojeski's 5-for-6 performance. In two home games, UH is 21-for-46 from 3-point range.
"That's all just hard work in practice, repetition," Nash said. "You have to keep your confidence up, and when one person drops their head, you have to have somebody to pick them up."
Despite a bit of a slow start against Saint Louis, Wallace was pleased with the energy of the team as UH ran past the Billikens after falling behind early.
"They're learning their roles and they like that I've put in the transition and we've got the guys who can respond to that and can shoot the ball," Wallace said. "The way they're running it allows more people to play, so the bench is happy. When you've got a happy ballclub, they play harder for you."
Waiting game: The status of UH guard Matt Gibson remains uncertain after the junior was suspended prior to Saturday's game. Gibson led the team in scoring last season and had nine points off the bench in UH's first two games this season.
Wallace said there isn't a timetable for a decision on Gibson's future with the team.
"He just needs time to think about what he wants to do," Wallace said. "He's part of the family, but he's got to work things out himself if he wants to play."
A different view: Wallace was pleased with the attendance for Saturday's game, the first home game televised on a pay-per-view basis. The Rainbows drew a crowd of 6,213 (7,626 tickets issued).
UH football has been shown on pay-per-view the last four seasons and the school added women's volleyball and men's basketball games to the package for the first time this year.
The 'Bows' Western Athletic Conference opener against Utah State on Dec. 17 will also be shown on pay-per-view. The rest of their home games, including the upcoming UNLV rematch, will air live on KFVE.
"I think people are buying into, 'Hey, you've got to get out there, this is a fun team to watch,' " Wallace said. "If they didn't like what they saw tonight, then they don't like basketball because it was fun to watch."