Riley traces problems to Rainbows' defense
It was only a month ago. It just seems longer.
Things were looking mighty bright for the Hawaii basketball team after beating Creighton in the championship game of the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic on Dec. 23.
The Rainbow Warriors were 8-4 at that point and added a ninth win the following week against Tennessee-Martin to cap a five-game winning streak.
But the holiday cheer hasn't extended into the new year as the Rainbows have won just once since and approach the midpoint of the Western Athletic Conference schedule looking up at the rest of the league.
Though coach Riley Wallace remains pleased with the Rainbows' work ethic in practice and the games, Hawaii (10-9 overall, 1-5 WAC) enters Thursday's game against San Jose State at the Stan Sheriff Center on a three-game skid and tied for last place.
"I haven't had any problems (with the team), but we're not improving," Wallace said. "We're kind of a straight line."
Hawaii will try to extend a seven-game winning streak against SJSU to stem its worst WAC start since going 1-7 to begin the league slate in 1999. They end the homestand on Monday against Utah State to complete their first run through the league.
Though there are many "what ifs" for the players and coaches to chew on after losing five WAC games by an average of 4.6 points, the 'Bows will look to get back on track this week.
"Now we've got to regroup," Wallace said. "Now you've got to build and get better, because we're close to getting there."
The 'Bows suffered through two of their toughest shooting nights of the season in last week's road losses at Idaho and Boise State, connecting on 35 percent (46-for-130) of their attempts during the trip. They were 3-for-21 from 3-point range in a 73-62 loss at Boise State last Saturday.
But offense isn't Wallace's biggest concern as the Rainbows still rank fourth in scoring with 73.2 points per game in WAC games.
Rather, he traces their current skid to the other end of the court where they've surrendered an average of 74.2 points against WAC competition, most in the league.
"We're scoring enough, we got the ball down inside a lot (against Boise State)," Wallace said.
"It all comes down to playing defense. We got outrebounded for the first time in a long time, that's defense too."
Wallace announced his resignation effective at the end of the season just before the start of WAC play, but said his situation isn't connected to the team's current struggles.
"There have been no discipline problems or anything like that so I don't think that's a factor," Wallace said. "I just think in the WAC everybody knows how to play you and we haven't made the counter adjustments."
Monday's game against Utah State begins a hectic week of three games in six days. They head out for a road trip to Fresno State (Feb. 1) and Nevada (Feb. 3) after closing their current homestand.
SJSU is in the midst of a similar stretch. The Spartans played at Fresno State last night, then face Hawaii on Thursday and return home against New Mexico State on Saturday.
UH guard Matt Lojeski
ranks fourth in the WAC in both scoring (17.4 ppg) and field-goal percentage (54 percent), second in assists (4.68 per game) and first in minutes played (35.47). Forward Ahmet Gueye
is tied for fifth in rebounding (8.2) and second in blocked shots (1.72). Guard Matt Gibson
is third in steals (1.58).
As a team, the Rainbows are first in the WAC and 19th in the country in assists with 17.47 per game. They're second in free-throw shooting at 72 percent.
Armed services night:
Members of the Armed Services, both active and reservists, receive two tickets for the price of one with a maximum of eight for Thursday's game against San Jose State.