Unfinished business for ’Bows
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The hopes Hawaii had of contending for the Western Athletic Conference's basketball regular season crown evaporated over the last two weeks. But the Rainbow Warriors still have some goals to aim for coming down the stretch.
Hawaii at Louisiana Tech; tomorrow, 3 p.m. Hawaii time; Radio: KKEA 1420-AM
First on the list will be to halt their current losing streak which stands at four entering tomorrow's game at Louisiana Tech. Get that done and the 'Bows (11-16, 7-7 WAC) give themselves a chance to finish above .500 in WAC play heading into next week's conference tournament.
"We want to finish out on a strong note," Hawaii coach Bob Nash said.
The fifth-place Rainbows begin their road trip facing last-place Louisiana Tech (4-23, 1-13) tomorrow at 3 p.m. Hawaii time at the Thomas Assembly Center. They close the regular season Saturday at NMSU (17-13, 10-4), which entered the week still eyeing the WAC's top spot.
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Halting a late-season skid will come down to making a few more stops.
With a four-game losing streak accompanying Hawaii on its final road trip of the season, the Rainbow Warriors are looking to tighten up on defense in their final two games prior to the Western Athletic Conference basketball tournament.
Since briefly climbing into the WAC title race in mid-February, Hawaii has surrendered an average of 78 points over the last four games while allowing opponents to shoot 49.5 percent from the field in falling out of contention.
"Defense is the thing we're going to have to work on," UH coach Bob Nash said. "On offense I think we're scoring enough points, but on defense if we can stop people is going to be our concern."
The Rainbows (11-16, 7-7 WAC) will try to get back on track when they face the Bulldogs (4-23, 1-13) at 3 p.m. Hawaii time tomorrow at the Thomas Assembly Center.
The outcome won't impact either teams' places in the WAC standings, with UH locked into fifth and the Bulldogs destined to finish last.
But there's still something to play for with the conference tournament offering a fresh start next week.
"These guys haven't given up," Nash said. "Obviously we're disappointed with the last four games but we're trying to build some momentum and after we play these two games the field is leveled again."
The Rainbows completed an overnight trek to Ruston yesterday morning and had a couple of hours to rest up before going to the gym. While the Rainbows could have let the long day of travel turn into a sluggish workout, Nash was pleased with the team's effort in the 90-minute practice.
The Rainbows focused on sharpening their offense yesterday and will spend today's session at the Thomas Assembly Center working on defending the Bulldogs, who enter tomorrow's game last in the WAC in scoring (59.5 points per game) and shooting (38.9 percent).
Offensively, Nash wants the Rainbows to play with more patience in their halfcourt sets, an approach that contributed to UH's hot streak in the middle of the WAC season.
"In the last few games we've gotten away from grinding it out and really making it work," Nash said. "We've settled for quick jump shots, and that's what we were doing early in the year and we weren't successful then."
Louisiana Tech has struggled under first-year coach Kerry Rupp, but gave Hawaii a tough run for much of the teams' meeting Feb. 2 at the Stan Sheriff Center. The Bulldogs hit close to 58 percent of their attempts in the first half and were within three with 11 minutes left before the Rainbows pulled away for a 71-57 win.
Bobby Nash scored 16 points and guard Matt Gibson, who took part in yesterday's practice after missing Monday's session, had 14 points and seven assists in the win.
Forward Kyle Gibson paced LaTech with 16 points that night and continues to be the Bulldogs leading producer with 16.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.
"We're looking to finish this thing out on a strong note as best as we possibly can," Rupp said. "We're playing for pride and we just have to stay together and see this thing through to the end."
After tomorrow's game, the Rainbows close the regular season at New Mexico State on Saturday and begin play in the WAC tournament next Thursday in Las Cruces.