UH finishes out on the road
’Bows still need a strong end to the season
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The Hawaii basketball team will start feeling at home on the road over the next two weeks.
Hawaii at Louisiana Tech; Thursday, 3 p.m. Hawaii time; live on KKEA 1420-AM
The Rainbow Warriors leave town tonight on a trip that takes them to Louisiana and an extended stay in New Mexico. UH plays at Louisiana Tech on Thursday and New Mexico State on Saturday prior to the WAC tournament in Las Cruces, N.M.
"We need to get ready for the WAC tournament because that's what's going to make or break the season," UH guard Matt Gibson said after playing his last game in the Stan Sheriff Center on Saturday.
Hawaii (11-16, 7-7 WAC) finished the season 9-9 at the Sheriff Center after losing both ends of their final homestand to Idaho and Boise State last week.
The Rainbows ended the home slate with a spirited effort, but couldn't quite climb out of an 18-point hole in losing to Boise State 78-71.
"You can look at it from the standpoint that we shouldn't have let them get up like that," senior swingman Riley Luettgerodt said. "But we battled back, there's no quit in this team."
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RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii seniors Matt Gibson and Bobby Nash hugged during senior-night festivities after Saturday night's home finale against Boise State, which the Rainbow Warriors lost 78-71.
Despite the feeling of closure that usually accompanies senior night, there's still quite a bit left down the road for the Hawaii basketball team.
After falling to Boise State in their final home game then savoring the graduation-like revelries that followed, the Rainbow Warriors were scheduled to practice early this morning then head for Louisiana tonight to begin their final road swing of the season.
When they'll return isn't quite certain.
UH closes the regular season on the road for the first time since 2004, finishing up with games at Louisiana Tech on Thursday and New Mexico State on Saturday. The team will then hang out in Las Cruces, N.M., for the WAC tournament, which opens next week, and will try to extend their stay as long as possible.
"We're road warriors -- it's nothing new to us," UH senior Riley Luettgerodt said. "We need to go to Louisiana and New Mexico and try to get two wins and go into the WAC tournament playing good basketball."
Hawaii (11-16, 7-7 WAC) embarks on the trip on a four-game losing streak after dropping both ends of a WAC homestand for the first time since 1999, the last time UH finished a season under .500.
But the current streak hasn't affected the team's place in the standings. Hawaii remains in fifth place, still two games ahead of sixth-place Fresno State with two left to play.
If there was any consolation in Saturday's senior-night loss, it was the effort the Rainbows displayed in battling back from an 18-point deficit in the second half to scramble into contention late in the game.
"We're not going away, we're going to fight all the way through," UH coach Bob Nash said. "These guys are going to give great effort, we have great character on this team. We just have to go on the road and try to win a couple."
Boise State, one of the nation's top shooting teams, hit for 54 percent against Hawaii and outscored the Rainbows 42-26 in the paint, despite being without All-WAC candidate center Matt Nelson. The Broncos appeared on the way to a second lopsided win over the Rainbows this season when they turned a 36-36 tie into a 58-40 lead with 11 minutes left.
"We were on the verge of being embarrassed on our senior night," said Luettgerodt, who led UH with 20 points and five assists. "It was an 18-point game and things could have gone south really fast. But we had only one thing to do and that was battle back."
The Rainbows injected some energy into the arena by turning up the pressure on defense to start a run that steadily chipped into the Boise State lead, but the Broncos were able to keep UH at arm's length in the final minute.
"We have to figure out how to do that for 40 minutes," said guard Matt Gibson. "It's late in the season to be talking like that, but that last 10 minutes when we were running, we were hitting shots, when we're fighting as hard as we can, that's the intensity we have to have for 40 minutes."
The Rainbows open the road trip against last-place Louisiana Tech (4-23, 1-13) and end the regular season as the senior night opponent for NMSU (17-13, 10-4), which is still in the hunt for a high seed in the WAC tournament.
As for the top of the WAC standings, Boise State (22-7, 12-3) clinched at least a share of the regular-season title by beating UH on Saturday. The Broncos can secure their first outright championship and the top seed in the WAC tournament with a home win over Utah State on Thursday.
The regular-season champion is guaranteed a berth in the National Invitation Tournament if it doesn't qualify for the NCAA Tournament. The WAC tournament champion will likely be the league's lone representative in the NCAA Tournament.