’Bows’ New Mexico trip takes an unexpected detour through Dallas
Skidding Rainbow Warriors facing Aggies team on the upswing
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LAS CRUCES, N.M. » The Hawaii basketball team's misfortune on its final road trip of the season hasn't been confined to the court.
Hawaii (11-17, 7-8 WAC) at New Mexico State (17-13, 11-4), 4 p.m. today, Hawaii time; Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
A day after suffering a loss at last-place Louisiana Tech, the Rainbows (11-17, 7-8 Western Athletic Conference) hit a detour on their journey west for tonight's regular-season finale against New Mexico State (17-13, 11-4). The new schedule has them arriving in Las Cruces less than 7 hours before tip-off.
Inclement weather led to the team's flight out of Shreveport being canceled yesterday morning. The travel party then took a 4-hour bus ride to Dallas and spent the night there.
The team was rebooked on a flight to El Paso scheduled for 10:30 this morning. Upon landing, the 'Bows will then have to make the 50-minute drive up to Las Cruces, leading to a new ETA of around 12:30 p.m. Mountain time with tip-off set for 7 p.m. (4 Hawaii time).
The team's preparation yesterday consisted of a film session and its on-court work prior to gametime will be limited to today's pregame shootaround.
"It's just another adjustment we have to make," UH coach Bob Nash said.
Once they pull into town, there's the matter of facing a New Mexico State team brimming with motivation.
For one, the Aggies can nab a share of the WAC regular season title and perhaps the top seed in next week's conference tournament with a win. Two, it's senior night. Then there's the payback factor in light of UH's 94-71 rout of the Aggies in Honolulu on Jan. 31.
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LAS CRUCES, N.M. » When Hawaii and New Mexico State parted company in late January, the fortunes of both teams split ways as well.
The Rainbow Warriors' 23-point blowout of the Aggies on Jan. 31 marked their most complete performance of the season and kept them in step with the league leaders. But they've won just twice since and have lost five straight entering tonight's rematch at the Pan American Center.
New Mexico State, meanwhile, shot north in winning seven of eight since leaving the Stan Sheriff Center, putting the Aggies in position to grab a share of the regular-season title and, perhaps, the top seed in next week's WAC tournament.
"It seems like they've gotten their rhythm and are peaking at the right time going into the tournament and they've got a lot riding on this game," Hawaii coach Bob Nash said of the Aggies.
As if facing NMSU (18-13, 11-4 WAC) on senior night weren't daunting enough, the Rainbows (11-17, 7-8) will go into the game without the benefit of a full practice following a loss at Louisiana Tech on Thursday.
The Rainbows had their flight from Shreveport canceled yesterday and ended up spending the night in Dallas. They were scheduled to fly to El Paso this morning and, barring any more travel snags, they'll pull into Las Cruces about 7 hours before game time.
"It's just another adjustment we have to make," Nash said. "Anything that could go wrong, we've had it this year. It just makes you stronger and you just have to deal with it."
When the Rainbows arrive, they'll bring a season-high five-game losing streak with them. A sixth straight loss would be the program's longest such streak in nine years.
Guard Matt Gibson is coming off a 22-point night against Louisiana Tech in which he also had eight turnovers to one assist and the Rainbows were beaten on the boards in falling 69-62 to the last-place Bulldogs.
With no practice yesterday, their preparation consisted of a film session and review of the scouting report. They'll then have today's pregame shootaround to go over the gameplan on the court.
"You want to go through things live so you can talk about the things you want to do defensively," Nash said. "But if you can't you just have to do the next best thing."
Greater stability has contributed to NMSU's resurgence since the first meeting with Hawaii. The Aggies arrived in Honolulu with heralded freshman Herb Pope just three games into working his way into the rotation and center Hatila Passos was coming off a suspension. Freshman Jahmar Young didn't make that trip while serving a suspension of his own.
The Rainbows pounced on the Aggies, shooting 52 percent from the field while hitting 11 3-pointers and forcing 24 NMSU turnovers, led by Gibson's 20 points and 11 assists.
"Hawaii did a phenomenal job there," NMSU coach Marvin Menzies said. "They really executed well and Gibson was just a man among boys. He manhandled us and did an excellent job in breaking us down off the dribble, making good shots and leading the team. He's obviously someone we're concerned with."
The Aggies enter tonight's game with six players averaging double figure scoring with forward Justin Hawkins leading the way at 17 points and seven rebounds per game, and are coming off an 88-65 win over San Jose State on Thursday.
"The Hawaii game was a big turning point for us," Hawkins said.
"We've had more time together and played a lot of games together now. So we're a totally different team."