RAINBOW WARRIOR BASKETBALL
'Bows aim for sweep of Bulldogs with Wolf Pack on horizon
UH's defense held the last two opponents to a combined 30 percent shooting from the field
The Hawaii basketball team will try to roll the momentum of a strong second-half performance on Monday into the second half of the Western Athletic Conference season.
The Rainbow Warriors' struggles on the road left them in the bottom half of the league standings at the midway point of the conference schedule. But a couple of home wins went a long way in boosting their morale and confidence heading into a two-game road trip to start the WAC's second round.
"Everybody was kind of counting us out, everybody was starting to lose a little hope, lose a little faith there for a while," UH guard Matt Gibson said after the Rainbows' comeback win over Utah State on Monday night.
"I think these wins gave us a little edge back ... gave us a little encouragement going on the road again."
Less than 12 hours after rallying past Utah State 69-61 at the Stan Sheriff Center, the Rainbows (12-9, 3-5 WAC) caught a flight to California yesterday morning and face Fresno State at 5 p.m. Hawaii time tomorrow at the Save Mart Center.
The trip will continue with a bus ride -- scheduled for 5 hours, weather permitting -- from Fresno to Reno on Friday. They'll take on No. 15 Nevada at 3 p.m. Saturday in a nationally televised contest on ESPN2.
Hawaii is still in search of its first win on an opponent's home court and begin this trip looking for a sweep of Fresno State. The Rainbows routed the Bulldogs 83-66 at the Sheriff Center on Jan. 11.
Hawaii went on to lose its next three before getting back on track with home wins over San Jose State and Utah State.
Fresno State (15-6, 4-4) is part of a three-team tie for fourth place in the WAC. At home, the Bulldogs are 12-1 at overall and 4-0 in WAC play.
"They'll be ready for us, it's always kind of a rivalry," Hawaii coach Riley Wallace said. "That's a tough place to play, but right now if we really get ready and go in there and got hot, that's one maybe we could steal away on the road."
Hawaii's balance and renewed emphasis on defense powered it to the last two wins.
The Rainbows held SJSU and Utah State to a combined 30 percent (35-for-115) shooting from the field and got key contributions from several players in their second-half rally against Utah State.
HAWAII AT FRESNO STATE
When: Tomorrow, 5 p.m. Hawaii time
Where: Save Mart Center
Gibson caught fire to score 18 second-half points and ignite a 25-6 UH run. Matt Lojeski turned in an all-around performance with 11 points, seven rebounds and seven assists while holding Aggies guard Jaycee Carroll to 13 points. Bobby Nash helped the Rainbows keep pace with the Aggies with 11 first-half points and played power forward for the game's final 10 minutes. Ahmet Gueye recorded five of Hawaii's season-high 10 blocked shots and P.J. Owsley had three blocks to go with nine points and eight rebounds.
Dominic Waters didn't commit a turnover in his first start of the season at point guard, and Riley Luettgerodt gave the 'Bows a lift off the bench when fouls hampered Gueye and Stephen Verwers.
"Those are the kind of games we've been losing, those close ones," Wallace said. "So it was good effort; the guys really turned it on and stayed together down the stretch."
The performances of Waters and Gibson give Wallace a decision to make heading into tomorrow's game. Restore Gibson to the starting role he held for the first 20 games, or, with both playing effectively on Monday, give the new rotation another shot against the Bulldogs?
"That's the idea of having two guys out there who are pretty even," Wallace said. "There's a place for both of them."
Fresno State will likely be looking for some payback when the Rainbows arrive at the Save Mart Center tomorrow. The Bulldogs' loss in Honolulu was part of a 2-4 stretch, with all of their losses coming on the road.
Quinton Hosley leads Fresno State in scoring at 14.4 points per game and is second in rebounding with 8.5 per game.
While the Rainbows were traveling yesterday and will have a day to prepare for the Bulldogs, Fresno State last played on Saturday, beating Louisiana Tech 70-64 at home.