RAINBOW WARRIOR BASKETBALL
Rainbows' loss the talk in the WAC
Wallace thinks he should have "stirred it up" during the controversy in Reno
After further review, Riley Wallace and Western Athletic Conference officials still don't see eye-to-eye on the frantic sequence that concluded the Hawaii basketball team's 69-68 loss at Nevada on Saturday.
For a few moments, the Rainbow Warriors appeared poised to pull off a nationally televised upset of the then-No. 15 Wolf Pack in what would have been one of the program's biggest road wins in Wallace's tenure. Instead, Nevada pulled out the win following a wild sequence that was still the talk of the conference yesterday.
Somewhat overshadowed by the controversial ending was a gritty performance by the Rainbows, in which they battled back from a 10-point deficit in the second half to give themselves a chance to win in the final seconds.
"It was one of the best road performances we've had," Wallace said. "That's what makes it hurt worse, it comes down to one last call and so controversial as to how it was handled."
The Rainbows (13-10) are now left to regroup this week for a homestand against Louisiana Tech on Saturday and New Mexico State on Monday at the Stan Sheriff Center.
"Now you have to go back and build them back up and get them going because that was taken away from them," Wallace said.
Two days after the game in Reno, the WAC office issued a statement clarifying the sequence, stating that the officials made the correct call in reversing their initial ruling awarding Hawaii's Ahmet Gueye with a basket while being fouled, which would have given the Rainbows the lead with 5.8 seconds left.
Wallace took exception to the explanation, pointing to video replays which also indicated that P.J. Owsley's putback at the buzzer was good as well.
"Actually we won the game twice so I think we should get two wins for that one and make up for a couple of bad games we had somewhere else," Wallace quipped on yesterday's WAC coaches teleconference.
To review, with UH trailing by a point in the final seconds, Gueye tossed up a wild shot while being fouled by Nevada's Nick Fazekas. The shot went through the net and Bill Gracey, the official on the baseline, ruled that Gueye was in the act of shooting while falling to the court. He awarded UH the go-ahead basket with 5.8 seconds left and with a chance to complete a three-point play with a free throw.
After conferring twice during a delay of about 5 minutes that included a tirade by Nevada coach Mark Fox, the officials changed the call, saying Gueye was fouled before the shot. Hawaii then had an inbounds play and the Wolf Pack survived when Owsley's putback of a Gueye miss was ruled to have come too late.
According to the WAC's statement yesterday regarding the foul on Gueye, official Brian Sorenson had whistled the foul on Fazekas with 7.5 seconds left, before Gueye had begun his shooting motion.
"After watching video tape of the play, it is clear that the foul called by Brian Sorenson did occur prior to the foul called by Bill Gracey; and that Hawaii player Ahmet Gueye was not in the act of shooting," WAC commissioner Karl Benson said in the statement.
"While I am satisfied that the officials 'got it right,' I am disappointed that there wasn't better communication between them immediately following the play. Better communication would have led to the situation being managed in a more efficient and effective manner."
With Hawaii not yet in the one-and-one bonus, Nevada looked to commit the foul on Gueye, who was grabbed prior to the shot going up. On video replays it appears that the call wasn't made until the final part of the play, when Gueye was falling to the floor and shooting the ball.
"Sorenson's hand goes up at 5.8," said Wallace. "That's when the clock stops."
The WAC clarified that the foul call, by rule, could not have been reviewed on the court-side monitors, but said "the officials could have gone to the monitor to determine whether time should have been added to the clock but elected not to do so."
Wallace said he could have asked for a review as well, but was preoccupied with drawing up the ensuing inbounds play.
On Owsley's final shot, the ESPN2 telecast also showed that the red light bordering the backboard, a tool in indicating the end of the game, went off with 0.4 seconds left on the clock.
Benson declined to comment on Wallace's assertions at the conclusion of yesterday's teleconference other than to say, "There obviously is a difference of opinion."
Wallace said there isn't anything to be done about the matter now as far as a possible complaint or protest. He also didn't blame Fox for his tirade when the officials initially ruled the shot was good. In fact, Wallace -- known for his fiery sideline demeanor over his 20-year UH career -- wished he hadn't been a kinder, gentler version of himself at that moment.
"There's nothing wrong with that. That's coaching and I've done it many, many times," Wallace said yesterday afternoon. "This particular night I elected not to do that. But today in my heart I feel like had I gone over there stirred it up and really got in my normal coaching personality the call would have stood.
"I was working the game, but in the end I let the officials work it. I chose to go that route and I won't do it again."
Still, Wallace took exception to a memo sent to the school's athletic directors praising the way both coaches handled the situation. "That's two different ways to handle it as coaches," he said.
Gibson honored: UH guard Matt Gibson was named WAC Player of the Week yesterday for a productive three-game run last week.
The junior averaged 16.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists as the Rainbows went 2-1 during that stretch. He scored a season-high 20 points off the bench in a win at home over Utah State last Monday. He then posted 19 points and nine rebounds in a road win over Fresno State. He closed the week with 11 points and seven assists against Nevada.
Gibson lost his starting job against Utah State for missing a practice and regained it for the following two games. He is averaging 10 points and 4.4 rebounds per game this season and ranks second on the team with 78 assists.
"He's one of the reasons we're playing better," Wallace said. "He's getting shots when we need shots. He's still a ways away from being good defensively, but his defense is better than it was."