RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Bobby Nash celebrated after forcing a San Jose State turnover in the second half of Monday's comeback win.
’Bows step up
Hawaii figured out how to seal the deal with their win over San Jose
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Until Monday night, whenever Hawaii found itself behind at the 5-minute mark of a ballgame the Rainbow Warriors would ultimately find themselves with a loss at the end of the night.
Rainbow Warriors Basketball
Fresno State (9-8, 2-1) WAC) at Hawaii (6-10, 2-2)
» Saturday, 7:05 p.m.
» Stan Sheriff Center
» Radio: KKEA 1410-AM
For the 11th time this season, the Rainbows trailed at that landmark in their game against San Jose State. For the first time, they were able to find a way to fight their way to a win.
They evened their Western Athletic Conference record at 2-2 entering Saturday's home game against Fresno State despite continuing to struggle from the perimeter. Instead, they worked the ball inside to score 36 points in the paint and Matt Gibson attacked the basket for the game-winning bucket in a 65-64 win.
The Rainbows (6-10 overall) will try to build on the comeback victory when they face the Bulldogs on Saturday in a WAC contest at the Stan Sheriff Center. Tip-off is set for 7:05 p.m.
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RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Swingman Riley Luettgerodt will pick up some of the rebounding duties for Hawaii's undersized roster.
After seeing the Stan Sheriff Center rims spit out one jump shot after another for two straight nights, the Hawaii basketball team looked inside to turn their fortunes around.
In the strategic sense, the Rainbow Warriors' worked the ball into the post and scored 36 points in the paint in their comeback over San Jose State on Monday night rather than let their shooting struggles dissolve into another home loss.
Figuratively, they were able to dig deep to pull out their first win of the season after trailing with 5 minutes left in a contest.
"That's what you have to do," UH senior Matt Gibson said. "You just have to play hard all the way through. That's what our coaches preach, play hard and good things happen."
Hawaii's 65-64 win over the Spartans evened its Western Athletic Conference record at 2-2 and gives the Rainbows (6-10 overall) a boost heading into Saturday's game against Fresno State to close out a three-game homestand.
"Every win is big," Gibson said after attacking the basket to score the game-winning layup with 11 seconds left in the game. "It brings us together, gives us confidence, especially at home."
The Rainbows trailed by 10 in the second half and clawed their way to the win despite again struggling with the jump shots that had been the source of much of their scoring this season. They are 6-for-35 from 3-point range in their last two games, but got 14 points and seven rebounds from forward Bill Amis and eight points from P.J. Owsley in the win over SJSU. Although they were outrebounded 41-30, they were able to come up with 16 second-chance points off the offensive boards.
UH's 36 points in the paint was the team's highest total since scoring 38 in a win over Alcorn State on Nov. 18 and the Rainbows committed a season-low nine turnovers.
"We wanted to make sure we got the ball inside to our 'bigs' and let them touch it and do some work in there," UH coach Bob Nash said.
A starter early in the season, Amis' production had fallen off during WAC play. In the three games prior to Monday night, he had scored a total of 16 points on 6-for-13 shooting. After going 1-for-4 in the first half, Amis scored 12 points in the second half against SJSU twice giving UH the lead in a see-saw final 3 minutes.
"For the first time it really looked like he wanted the ball in the post as opposed to getting pushed around," Nash said. "He fought for position and our guys were able to get him the ball and he did a nice job.
"You look at P.J., he did the same thing down there. He really worked hard for positioning and that tired their big people. As long as we can go inside and outside, we're going to be successful."
Straightening out their outside shooting will be a key entering Saturday's game, and having four practices in the Sheriff Center prior to the contest can't hurt. Prior to last Saturday's game against Nevada, the Rainbows hadn't shot in the arena since their Dec. 30 win over Centenary. They had practiced across the way in Gym II in the week leading up to the Nevada game.
"We just haven't shot the ball well in this building for some reason in the last two or three weeks," Nash said. "I don't know if it's not having the opportunity to be in here to practice in the facility and put up a lot of shots. Hopefully this week we'll get a chance to be in here before we play Fresno and work out those problems."
Jared Dillinger has been fighting through a shooting slump since returning home, going 2-for-11 from the field in the last two games. But he came up with a pivotal defensive play to help preserve the win on Monday.
After Gibson gave UH the lead, Dillinger picked up SJSU guard DaShawn Wright, who had made nine of his 11 shots to that point, and contested his potential game-winner. The shot hit off the iron and Dillinger tracked down the rebound to seal the outcome.
"Jared asked for the challenge to step up and try to guard (Wright) and did an excellent job in the last 11 seconds," Nash said.
UH forced 19 turnovers in a defensive effort that kept the Rainbows within striking distance.
Hawaii's WAC champion football, women's volleyball and soccer teams will be honored at Saturday's game. Members of the teams will be introduced at halftime and presented their championship trophies by WAC commissioner Karl Benson.
Each fan in attendance will also receive a poster commemorating the football team's 2007 season. The poster features a team photo taken at the Sugar Bowl and autographs from players and coaches. There is a limit of one poster per person.