Aggies to test ’Bows
Execution is everything for Rainbows tomorrow
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The Hawaii basketball team hits the midway point of the Western Athletic Conference season tomorrow when the Rainbow Warriors face New Mexico State.
Hawaii (8-11, 4-3 WAC) vs. New Mexico State (11-11, 5-2)
When: Tomorrow, 7:05 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
Radio: KKEA 1420-AM
TV: KFVE, Ch. 5
They enter the game at the Stan Sheriff Center in the middle of the pack in the league race, and will try to move up against an Aggies team that has controlled the all-time series.
NMSU is 6-1 against Hawaii and has won the last three meetings.
To buck that trend, the Rainbows (8-11 overall, 4-3 WAC) will have to counter the Aggies' size and athletic ability with execution on both ends of the court.
"We have to do the little things -- boxing out, sealing to get open, making the right pass, seeing the floor -- and just handle the pressure," UH coach Bob Nash said. " Do the little things we work on every single day."
New Mexico State enters the game at 11-11, 5-2 in the WAC. The Aggies are 2-6 on a road schedule that included visits to Duke, Texas, New Mexico and Louisville.
Tomorrow's game opens a two-game homestand for the Rainbows and has been designated a "White Out" night. The UH athletic department is encouraging fans attending the game to wear white shirts.
Hawaii's homestand concludes Saturday against Louisiana Tech.
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The little things count.
With a New Mexico State team blessed with size and athletic ability coming to town, sweating the small stuff will be critical for the Hawaii basketball team to pull out a big win tomorrow night.
"They're very talented players, so you have to do the little things -- boxing out, help-side defense -- or it'll come back and bite you if you don't," Hawaii senior Riley Luettgerodt said.
Seven games into the Western Athletic Conference season, the Rainbow Warriors (8-11) have been able to execute well enough to enter tomorrow's matchup with the Aggies at the Stan Sheriff Center still within shouting distance of the league leaders at 4-3 in league play.
After splitting a road trip last week, putting together another sharp performance will be key to the Rainbows protecting their homecourt and keeping up with the pack in the league race.
"We have to control tempo and control pace, make sure we get into our sets and run our sets as crisp as possible," Bobby Nash said.
"For the seniors, we only have five more of these (home games), so we have to make the most of them."
Tip-off for the "White Out" night game is set for 7:05 p.m.
The Rainbows' four WAC wins have come against teams below them in the standings, and they'll have a chance to climb up the standings with three games against schools above them coming up starting tomorrow.
The Rainbows will see several familiar faces when they line up against the Aggies (11-11, 5-2), who returned seven letterwinners off last year's WAC tournament title team and are coming off a 100-70 rout of Utah State last Saturday, hitting the century mark for the second time this season.
But with first-year coach Marvin Menzies taking over for Reggie Theus, now coach of the Sacramento Kings, they expect a few different wrinkles from this year's Aggies.
"They're the same kind of team, but they play a different set," UH coach Bob Nash said. "They want to post you up and try to get to the free-throw line. ... All the guards, all the forwards, they try to post you up at every turn."
The Aggies rank second in the conference in scoring at 76.4 points per game and top the league in rebounding.
Six-foot-seven senior swingman Justin Hawkins leads the Aggies in both categories (17.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and is coming off a 10-for-13 shooting night against Utah State. NMSU also has weapons in the backcourt in Jonathan Gibson and Fred Peete and size inside with 6-11 centers Martin Iti and Hatila Passos, who returned recently from a suspension.
"They're not just athletic, they're skilled and athletic," Bob Nash said. "It presents a lot of problems, but we have to be able to handle that."
Heralded freshman Herb Pope has also made an impact since being declared eligible. The 6-8 forward, a fourth-team Parade All-American in high school -- has added 10.7 points and 7.7 rebounds to the Aggies rotation in their last three games.
"It gives them versatility," Bob Nash said of Pope's addition. "You give them a guy that's 6-8, that can step out and hit shots or put it on the floor, can get rebounds. It gives them a lot of different options."
NMSU freshman Jahmar Young, who scored 33 points against Boise State earlier this month, won't be available for tomorrow's game. According to published reports, Young will serve a one-game suspension after walking off the court late in the Utah State game.