Rainbows need to win on the road
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Being able to sneak out with a few road wins has long been a key to winning the Western Athletic Conference basketball title.
Hawaii (11-12, 7-4 WAC) at Fresno State (11-15, 4-8), tomorrow, 5 p.m. Hawaii time, radio: 1420-AM
Only once in the last two decades has a regular-season winner finished under .500 on the road in league play. With three of its final five WAC games on the road, winning away from the Stan Sheriff Center will be vital for Hawaii to maintain a place among the contenders in the closing weeks of the season.
Coming off a comeback win over Utah State last Saturday, the Rainbow Warriors (11-12 overall, 7-4 WAC) play at Fresno State (11-5, 4-8) tomorrow at the Save Mart Center. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. Hawaii time.
UH, which has won the last three meetings with Fresno State, enters the contest at 2-3 in WAC road games this season and got some help last night with San Jose State knocking Utah State 70-67.
That result leaves Boise State and New Mexico State with three WAC losses each. Nevada, Utah State and Hawaii are just behind with four league losses.
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RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii's Bill Amis ended up in the courtside seats after chasing a loose ball against Utah State in the 'Bows' win Saturday.
They've given themselves a shot.
The trick now will be -- as Hawaii coach Bob Nash put it yesterday -- to "seize the moment."
The Rainbow Warriors kept themselves in the Western Athletic Conference race with a stirring comeback against Utah State over the weekend. The next step takes them to Fresno State's Save Mart Center tomorrow to cap a pivotal three-game conference stretch.
Win and the 'Bows (11-12 overall, 7-4 WAC) continue to be a factor in the five-team chase heading into the final two weeks of the WAC's regular season. Lose, and an already tough climb gets even steeper.
"I told the guys that was a great win for the program, but it only put you in position to have to win the next one," Nash said yesterday in a phone call from Fresno. "Although Utah State was a great win, the only thing it does is keep you in the hunt."
The Rainbows will have a chance to creep up on the leaders with the rest of the conference idle heading into their BracketBusters games this weekend. The 'Bows did get some help last night as San Jose State upset Utah State 70-67.
Boise State and New Mexico State lead the league with three WAC losses. Nevada, Utah State and Hawaii now have four each.
But keeping the blinders on to the movement in the standings could be a key for the Rainbows heading into tomorrow's game with the sixth-place Bulldogs (11-15, 4-8) at the Save Mart Center.
"We're dreaming big," Nash said. "We're dreaming that we're going to try to win it and to a man that's what we're working toward. Whether we reach that dream, a lot of things have to take place. But it won't happen unless we get done what we need to as far as continuing to be aggressive on offense and defense and having to win a very big game on the road."
Hawaii could get some help in the post with the return of forward P.J. Owsley. The 6-foot-8 senior has missed the last three games with a knee injury, and went through the full workout with the team at yesterday's practice at Fresno City College.
"He's still a little gimpy but he made it through all right," Nash said. "We didn't go too hard, but we wanted to have him get back in there and test it a little bit."
UH will face a Fresno State team looking to get on track with three straight home games after losing five of their last six, including defeats at Idaho and Boise State last week.
"Certainly, that's a big game for us," Fresno State coach Steve Cleveland said. "Hawaii is a difficult matchup for a lot of people. ... They're playing with a lot of confidence. They've got a senior group that can really shoot it.
"They play with intelligence and I'm sure they'll come over here with a great deal of confidence after beating Utah State."
The Bulldogs' rotation also got a boost recently with the return of guard Dwight O'Neil. He was out with a broken wrist when Hawaii beat Fresno State 75-62 on Jan. 19 at the Stan Sheriff Center.
That win was Hawaii's third straight over the Bulldogs. In those matchups, the Rainbows have held Fresno State to 32.6 percent shooting overall and 20.2 percent from 3-point range.
The Bulldogs -- who rely heavily on 3-point shooting -- made one of 24 3-point attempts in Hawaii's 54-42 win in Fresno last season and went 5-for-20 from beyond the arc against UH last month. Fresno State guard Eddie Miller, who has made a league-high 91 3-pointers this season, is 0-for-15 in his last two outings against Hawaii.
Both teams are led by their senior point guards. Hawaii's Matt Gibson is averaging 18.7 points and 5.64 assists in WAC games, with Fresno State's Kevin Bell just behind at 18.3 and 5.25.
Balance has also been a key when the Rainbows have been successful lately. UH has had at least four players score in double figures in each of their last five wins. All five starters had at least 10 points against Utah State last week.