Rainbow Warriors seek sweep of SJSU
When the game is flowing in its favor, points tend to come in bunches for the Hawaii basketball team.
Hawaii At San Jose State
When: Today, 5 p.m.
Where: Event Center
Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
Internet: Video on wac.tv
The Rainbow Warriors have hit their rough stretches over the course of an up-and-down season, but their ability to put together big runs spurred them to several wins lately.
Among those was their last meeting with San Jose State when UH put together a 24-0 spurt against the Spartans on Jan. 25 and cruised to a 72-52 win. It was the third time this season that the Rainbows had hung more than 20 unanswered points on an opponent.
"I think a lot of it has to do with defense and getting stops and getting out into transition and trying to get easy buckets," UH guard Matt Lojeski said.
Hawaii (15-12, 5-8 Western Athletic Conference) goes for the season sweep of San Jose State (4-23, 3-11) today at The Event Center. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. Hawaii time.
The Rainbows' seventh and final regular-season road trip is also their shortest. They flew directly to San Jose on Thursday and will be back tomorrow afternoon. In between, they expect a tougher push from the Spartans, who suffered their fourth straight loss at Boise State Thursday.
"They play much better at home, you can tell that," UH coach Riley Wallace said. "They're good athletes and the big man (Menelik Barbary) has improved a lot."
The Rainbows are looking to bunch together a few wins in the final stretch of the regular season leading up to the WAC tournament. With three games left, Hawaii enters today in seventh place, a half-game behind sixth-place Louisiana Tech (6-8) and two behind Fresno State. The Rainbows need to win the last three games to break even in the WAC at 8-8 heading into the tournament and into possible postseason consideration.
"This is a very important game," Wallace said. "We worked hard, we talked about it. Every win is important."
Hawaii will look to win back-to-back road games for the first time this season after winning at Long Beach State 93-78 a week ago today. In that game, the Rainbows struggled early and fell behind by nine midway through the second half before piecing together another big run.
The 'Bows outscored the 49ers 23-5 over a 7-minute stretch -- which included a 13-0 run -- to erase the deficit and take control of the game.
UH's largest run of the season was a 25-0 spurt to open a rout of Oregon State in November. They also had a 21-0 run bridging halftime in a road win over Fresno State on Feb. 1.
There were also 14-0 runs against Northwestern State and Louisiana Tech and a 25-6 stretch against Utah State.
"Coach always tells us there's two different (Rainbow) teams," Lojeski said. "There's the team that comes out and plays with energy and plays with heart and is really scrapping and clawing, and there's the team that wants to just be passive and shoot jump shots and let the other team take it to us. That all starts with defense, that starts with energy level."
The Rainbows will try to summon that energy today to avoid a stumble against San Jose State. They needed a last-second 3-pointer by Julian Sensley last year to escape with a 61-60 win in their last visit to The Event Center.
San Jose State has lost four straight, the last three coming on the road. The Spartans are 2-4 at home in the WAC with two of those losses coming by a single point against Utah State and Boise State.
Guard Carlton Spencer continues to lead the Spartans with 13.5 points per game, while the 6-foot-9 Barbary averages 12.3 points and 6.3 rebounds.
Hawaii, which is allowing a league-low 65.2 points per game in WAC contests, limited the Spartans to 15 first-half points in the first meeting as SJSU made just three of its first 27 shots.
Note: At this point, a seventh-place finish would mean facing host New Mexico State in the quarterfinals of the WAC tournament in Las Cruces. The Aggies start today two games behind first-place Nevada with three to play and close the regular season against the Wolf Pack next week.