RAINBOW WARRIOR BASKETBALL
Hawaii without defensive go-to Gueye
As the Hawaii basketball team copes with the loss of a key starter, New Mexico State expects to have its catalyst back just in time for this week's Western Athletic Conference tournament.
A depleted Rainbow Warrior team faces the Aggies in a WAC tournament quarterfinal game Thursday at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno.
The Rainbows (17-10) enter the tournament with only eight scholarship players available after losing forward Ahmet Gueye to a season-ending knee injury last Friday.
NMSU (15-13), meanwhile, will have guard Elijah Ingram back in the lineup. The junior sat out the Aggies' 61-56 loss to UH last week due to a hamstring injury.
"I kept him out of the game in Hawaii so he would be 100 percent for the start of the tournament," NMSU coach Reggie Theus said yesterday.
The Rainbow Warriors left for Reno yesterday and are the fourth seed in the eight-team tournament. They play fifth-seeded NMSU in the final game of the day at 6:30 p.m., Hawaii time. The winner advances to take on the winner of the Nevada-Idaho matchup in the semifinals on Friday.
"We're not giving up," UH coach Riley Wallace told reporters yesterday. "We think we've got a shot, so we'll go in there with the idea we can win this thing."
Following a 51-48 loss to Louisiana Tech to close the regular season on Saturday, the Rainbows took Sunday off and spent yesterday traveling to Reno.
Getting ample rest had been a priority for a UH team already short on depth most of the season.
Gueye, who averaged 12.2 points and 7.7 rebounds while providing an intimidating defensive presence in the post, remained in Honolulu to get treatment on his injured right knee. He has a torn anterior cruciate ligament and his recovery is projected to take about five months.
The 'Bows had avoided significant injuries after guards Matt Gibson and Bobby Nash were both fitted for redshirt seasons and senior center Milos Zivanovic left the team in December. They sent the same starting five onto the court in every game until Saturday's game against Louisiana Tech.
Senior center Chris Botez, who provided energy off the bench as UH's sixth man all season, started his first game against the Bulldogs and played well vs. NMSU last week.
But the Rainbows now have no big men to come in behind Botez and forwards Matthew Gipson and Julian Sensley.
UH's reserves are now limited to guards John Wilder, Dominic Waters and Hiram Thompson and walk-on Jack Miller.
"(Botez) started games last year, so it's good that we have someone there," Wallace said. "But there's no size rotation now."
Ingram suffered a hamstring injury on Feb. 25 and sat out NMSU's final regular-season game last Thursday at the Stan Sheriff Center. The transfer from St. John's was named to the All-WAC second team and the All-Newcomer team.
He averaged 13.3 points during the season and set the pace for NMSU's up-tempo attack that averaged nearly 72 points in WAC games.
"It was probably a smart move for them to save him for the tournament," Wallace said.