CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Senior Bobby Nash and the Rainbows are trying for their first WAC tourney quarterfinal victory since 2003.
Tourney time for UH hoops teams
Rainbows go back to basics against Boise State
LAS CRUCES, N.M. » If there was ever a team in need of a fresh start, it's Hawaii.
The Rainbow Warriors haven't won since Feb. 16, ending the regular season on a six-game skid lowlighted by a 35-point blowout against New Mexico State on Saturday.
So with the Western Athletic Conference tournament offering a sense of renewal -- and with some extra time here in Las Cruces -- the Rainbows didn't wait long to start preparing for their shot at redemption.
"The field is even now and we definitely feel like regardless of everything we've been through, our slate's been wiped clean and we get one more shot at this," UH guard Matt Gibson said after the team's back-to-basics session at NMSU's practice gym yesterday afternoon.
Hawaii is the fifth seed and faces No. 4 Boise State in the quarterfinals at 8 a.m. Hawaii time Thursday at the Pan American Center.
Although it makes for a long stay on the mainland, closing the season in Las Cruces does carry the advantage of getting acclimated leading up to the tournament.
"Instead of just laying around the hotel all day long we could get in here and start our preparation work early," UH coach Bob Nash said. "Obviously we're disappointed with the loss and how we lost, so I thought we had their attention today and they gave a good, spirited practice."
The Rainbows (11-18, 7-9 WAC) finished in the middle of the pack in a WAC race that ended with the regular-season title being split four ways for the first time in the league's history.
Utah State emerged from the tiebreaker process with the top seed and is assured of a spot in the NIT if the Aggies come up short this week.
As far as the NCAA Tournament goes, the team that finishes on top this week will likely be the WAC's lone representative in the dance.
Host New Mexico State won its first WAC title last season and the Aggies will have the backing of a raucous home crowd as they try to defend their title.
"It's a big advantage being at home," said NMSU forward Justin Hawkins, MVP of last year's tournament. "We get to sleep in our own beds, having a lot of fans here, I think it's a big deal.
"They gave us a big lift (last year). They can get really crazy here and it's like an adrenaline rush and it probably affects the other teams too at times."