Boise's transition game tests UH


POSTED: Saturday, January 03, 2009

Bob Nash and Greg Graham are ready for some direct analysis.




Boise State (9-3) at Hawaii (8-4), 7 p.m. today; KFVE, Ch. 5; KKEA, 1420-AM


The head basketball coaches for Hawaii and Boise State figure they'll have a better idea of where they stand in the Western Athletic Conference hierarchy after tonight. The Rainbow Warriors (8-4) host the defending league champion Broncos (9-3) to kick off the WAC season at 7:05 p.m. at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Hawaii fans are encouraged to wear white as part of a “;White Out”; promotion. Hawaii is looking to snap a five-game conference losing streak going back to last season, and a three-game skid against Boise State after the Broncos swept the season series. That included a loss that ended the Rainbows' season in the WAC tournament quarterfinals.

“;They are a new team and we are a new team, and it's just a matter of which system and which group of personnel come together the fastest off this first WAC game,”; Nash said.

In terms of nonconference success this year, the two teams are behind only Utah State (12-1) in overall records entering 16 games of WAC play.

They've had four mutual opponents: Idaho State, Colorado State, San Francisco and Eastern Washington.

Both the Rainbows and the Broncos beat ISU in overtime, both beat EWU at home and both lost narrowly to USF. But Graham's team beat CSU 85-76 on Dec. 6, while the Rams beat the 'Bows, 74-58, in the opening round of the 45th Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic.

Graham, the reigning WAC coach of the year who guided the Broncos to a school-best 25 wins last year, said there's no advantage to be gained from such logic.

“;If you start getting into that 'we beat them, they beat us, you beat them' you could figure out how everybody would be tied for No. 1 in the country somehow, kind of like the (college) football mess,”; Graham said.

Nash agreed.

“;Just like a heavyweight championship fight, the one guy can beat another guy—it's just one of those things, it's just matchups,”; Nash said. “;We're just going to do what we do and hopefully on Saturday night it'll be good enough.”;

Much like Hawaii and the rest of the WAC (only two of the top 15 scorers in the conference last season are back) Boise State has restocked after losing a significant portion of its offense. BSU's most notable departures were All-WAC forwards Reggie Larry (19.4 points, 9.2 rebounds) and Matt Nelson (15.7 points, 7.3 rebounds). Two other starters, Tyler Tiedeman and Matt Bauscher, also left, and Graham had to figure out a way to restore 70.7 percent of his team's scoring.

Forward Mark Sanchez, a 6-foot-7, 235-pound senior, has come up big. He's posted 15.7 points and 7.6 rebounds after averaging just 3.0 points as a reserve last year. He hit a game-winning layup at the buzzer in an 86-85 thriller over Wyoming on Dec. 3.

While Sanchez has filled Larry's former spot up front, Graham has gone with a “;three-headed monster”; of Kurt Cunningham, Zack Moritz and Ike Okoye to replace Nelson's numbers.

A transition offense to create mismatches and quick shots (73.4 points per game compared to 69.5 for UH) remains Boise State's trademark.

“;They push the ball real good,”; said Kareem Nitoto, who shares Hawaii point guard duties with Hiram Thompson. “;When we get into the league we're going to be real confident and come out this first weekend and play a real solid game. I feel we're coming along as a team, and every game we've progressed as a team, and made a stronger bond as a team.”;

The Rainbows follow against Louisiana Tech on Monday at 7:05 p.m. at the Stan Sheriff Center.