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'Bows given chance to avoid play-in


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POSTED: Friday, March 06, 2009

The window is open once again, lending the Hawaii men's basketball team a breath of fresh air.

With Louisiana Tech's loss at Idaho last night, the Rainbow Warriors control their own seeding destiny in next week's Western Athletic Conference tournament.

If the Rainbows (13-15, 5-10 WAC) can knock off New Mexico State (15-14, 8-7) in their home finale tomorrow at the Stan Sheriff Center, they'll clinch the No. 7 seed and avoid the dreaded play-in game for the bottom two teams in the league. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.

No team has ever emerged from the WAC play-in game to win the tournament and receive an automatic NCAA Tournament bid.

The Rainbows were oblivious to their opportunity as they practiced yesterday to prepare for the Aggies, who defeated UH 82-72 in Las Cruces, N.M., on Jan. 31. Like several other games this season, the Rainbows were in it until some late mistakes allowed NMSU to pull away.

“;They have a really good transition game, so we have to get back and locate people,”; Hawaii coach Bob Nash said. “;Not just their 3-point (shooters) but also their post guys. So we just gotta locate and not give them clean looks. That's what we work on every day anyway, but today we did it with more New Mexico State in mind.”;

Nash emphasized worrying only about NMSU, and not the Idaho-LaTech contest. His players followed suit.

“;It'd mean a lot (to win), not just for the fans but for us as well,”; forward Paul Campbell said. “;Pride-wise, you don't want to go into the WAC tournament losing. No one wants to do that. We know that no matter what (happened last night) with the Idaho and LaTech game, we gotta go out with a strong effort tomorrow because we want to show everyone that we can win the tournament.”;

UH will depart for Reno, Nev., home of the tournament, early Sunday morning. Should the 'Bows lose to NMSU, preparation time will be limited for the play-in game against Fresno State on Tuesday.

Stopping the Aggies won't be easy; UH has lost four of five, including its last two at home. NMSU leads the WAC in scoring at 76.3 points per game, but is also last in defense at 75.2 ppg allowed. The Aggies are the most efficient team in the conference from beyond the 3-point arc (39.8 percent) and average a league-best seven steals per game.

“;They just go at you on offense at all times,”; forward Adhar Mayen said. “;So you gotta be prepared.”;

The defensive effort against the Aggies starts with sophomore Jahmar Young. The 6-foot-5 guard puts up a WAC-best 18.5 ppg and is the most prolific and efficient 3-point shooter in the league with 65 treys made at a 42.8 percent clip.

“;Jahmar Young is one of the premier young players in our league,”; Nash said. “;He's long, athletic, plays with a great calmness about his game. He can shoot the basketball, put it on the floor, get to the rim. He's a great prospect. Maybe a little more strength, a little more ball-handling, he's one of those guys who maybe can be at the next level.”;

Young went for 25 points in the Aggies' win in Las Cruces.

UH might be helped by the fact that New Mexico State is locked into playing Idaho in the tournament as either the No. 4 or the No. 5 seed; it no longer has incentive to improve its positioning in the tourney.

 

Note

There will be no traditional postgame ceremony for the home finale because the Rainbows have no seniors. However, players will be available for autographs in the arena after the game.