RAINBOW WARRIOR BASKETBALL
Much-needed victory gives 'Bows big boost
Hawaii gets to take some momentum into its opener of the Rainbow Classic on Wednesday
One way to gauge the importance of Saturday's win for the Hawaii basketball team might be to consider the impact had the Rainbow Warriors not come away with a victory.
With two disappointing losses behind them and the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic looming just ahead, a win over Northwestern State was just what the 'Bows needed.
"If you lose and you've got three in a row, you're going to have a tough time getting your team up to play in a tough, balanced Rainbow Classic. There isn't any question about that," Hawaii coach Riley Wallace said.
"How much did we need it? A lot. They knew it, they felt it, they worked hard all week to get ready for it and they carried it to the floor for the most part."
The win gave the Rainbows (5-4) some momentum going into the 43rd annual tournament, which opens Wednesday at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Hawaii had a string of four straight championships in the four-day, eight-team event snapped last year with a loss in the semifinals and Iowa State claimed the 2005 title.
The Rainbows open this year's tournament against San Francisco of the West Coast Conference in the second game of Wednesday's opening doubleheader. Wyoming and Nebraska meet in the opener.
On the other side of the bracket, Charlotte faces Houston and Valparaiso takes on Creighton on Thursday.
The Rainbows took yesterday off and get back in the gym this afternoon to prepare for the three-game grind of the tournament.
"It's the same emphasis we've had all year," guard Matt Lojeski said, "working on our defense, getting better at that, and just taking care of the ball and getting into our offense."
The 'Bows appeared refreshed following an 11-day layoff in their 89-78 win over Northwestern State on Saturday.
Hawaii broke away to a 20-point lead in the first half and led by as many as 23 in the second half after the Demons rallied to within five points with 16 minutes left.
"I prefer that way rather than starting slow and using all the energy trying to catch up," Wallace said
The Rainbows entered the game last among Western Athletic Conference teams in 3-point shooting, but matched their season high with six treys against the Demons.
Forward Bobby Nash hit three in the first half on his way to a career-best 22-point effort.
"We work hours and hours in the gym and we just brought it to the court," Nash said. "I think if you get the ball in a comfortable situation you have to have that confidence to go up and shoot the ball."
To address their shooting percentage from the perimeter, the Rainbows have closed recent practices with a 3-point shooting drill for the guards.
Rotating in groups of three or four, they shoot from one corner, the top of the key, then the other corner. Two points are added for each made shot and three subtracted for each miss, with 20 points needed for the group to move to the next spot.
"I think they like it now because they've got confidence in it and I think it's helping with the shooting," Wallace said.