UH's Phil Martin and Haim Shimonovich battled SMU's Eric Castro for a rebound during last night's game at the Stan Sheriff Center.

UH survives
scrappy SMU

The Mustangs stay close,
but Kuebler closes them out
with his sixth 3-pointer

One thing about this year's Hawaii basketball team: It's never dull.

The Rainbow Warriors' four previous games entering last night's contest with Southern Methodist were all decided by three points or fewer.

They were again locked in a tight battle last night with the Mustangs, and pulled out a 62-59 victory before a crowd of 6,326 at the Stan Sheriff Center to reclaim first place in the Western Athletic Conference.

"It looks like this league is going to be that way for everybody," Hawaii coach Riley Wallace said. "It's just going to get tighter and tighter."

The Rainbows moved a half-game ahead of Nevada, which defeated Texas-El Paso yesterday.

A rarely used guard gave UH a lift early and the big men came through late as Hawaii (17-5, 9-3) swept the season series.

With the Rainbows struggling from the field, Jake Sottos came off the bench and sparked UH with three 3-pointers, allowing the Rainbows to stay close with the Mustangs.

UH guard Michael Kuebler heated up to hit five of his six 3-pointers in the second half and finished with a game-high 21 points.

Hawaii's front line of center Haim Shimonovich and forwards Phil Martin and Julian Sensley took over late in the contest, accounting for all of Hawaii's points over a 10-minute span.

The 'Bows have yet to lose back-to-back games this season after rebounding from a 62-61 loss to Louisiana Tech on Thursday, a defeat Wallace called one of the toughest of his 17 years as head coach.

"We could have come in with our heads down, but they accepted the challenge," Wallace said.

"That loss woke us up a little bit," Sensley said. "We came out in practice and everybody was ready to play. You could tell we were hungry for tonight."

SMU (10-13, 4-9) settled for a split of its road trip and lost its fourth straight game in Honolulu.

Mustangs guard Bryan Hopkins led SMU with 16 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Patrick Simpson and Kris Lowe added 13 points each.

The Mustangs stayed in a zone defense for all but a few possessions, which Sottos and Kuebler took as a signal to launch from outside.

"(Wallace) told me to be ready because we knew they zoned a lot," Sottos said. "When he called on me I was ready to come out and shoot."

Shimonovich came alive in the second half and finished with 10 points and eight rebounds. Sensley had 11 points and eight boards, while Martin contributed nine points and seven rebounds.

"They had the inside-outside game going even against the zone, so when you're doing that it's difficult in any defense," said SMU coach Mike Dement.

Hawaii's struggles from the field on Thursday seemed to linger early in last night's game until Sottos sparked the Rainbows with a career-high 10 points.

Reserve center Milos Zivanovic also gave the Rainbows significant minutes when Shimonovich went out with two fouls. The sophomore had five rebounds in 12 minutes and altered several SMU attempts.

The Rainbows shot 29 percent as a team but trailed by just one point at halftime.

Hawaii made just two of its first 15 shots from the field and trailed 12-5 10 minutes into the game.

Sottos, who had played in just one of the previous 10 games, came off the bench and hit a 3-pointer while being fouled and completed the four-point play. He drained another 3-pointer two minutes later to cut the SMU lead to 15-14. His third long-range shot with 1:08 left brought UH to within a point at 25-24 going into halftime.

"He basically carried us in the first half," Sensley said.

Kuebler heated up after halftime, scoring Hawaii's first 13 points of the half and draining four 3-pointers. His third gave UH its first lead of the game at 34-33.

"I think a huge factor in that was Jake. He took a lot of pressure off my shoulders to be the perimeter guy out there," Kuebler said. "He got me fired up and probably got me some more open looks too."

After a jumper by Justin Isham tied the game at 41 with 9:36 left, the Rainbows went inside to go on an 11-2 run to open up a 52-43 lead.

SMU cut its deficit to three after two free throws by Hopkins with 2:27 left.

Hopkins then stunned the 'Bows by hitting the tying 3-pointer while being fouled by Logan Lee. His free throw put SMU up 59-58 with 1:14 left.

But UH responded with Kuebler's sixth 3-pointer of the night to reclaim a 61-59 advantage with 48.7 seconds remaining.

WAC standings


All Games

W L Pct. W L Pct.
Hawaii 9 3 .750 17 5 .773
Nevada 10 4 .714 16 7 .696
UTEP 9 4 .692 18 5 .783
Rice 8 4 .667 16 7 .696
Boise St. 7 6 .538 15 8 .652
Fresno St. 7 6 .538 11 11 .500
Louisiana Tech 6 7 .462 12 11 .522
SMU 4 9 .308 10 13 .435
Tulsa 3 10 .230 7 15 .318
San Jose St. 1 11 .083 6 16 .272

Yesterday's games
Rice 111, Tulsa 103, 2OT
San Jose St. 56, Louisiana Tech 53, OT
Boise St. 55, Fresno St. 44
Nevada 92, UTEP 63
Hawaii 62, SMU 59

Hawaii 62, SMU 59

MUSTANGS (10-13, 4-9 WAC)

fg fga ft fta min reb a tp
Simpson 6 11 1 4 34 2 0 13
Isham 3 6 1 1 31 3 1 8
Hopkins 5 15 3 3 34 10 7 16
Castro 2 3 3 4 21 5 0 7
Lowe 5 11 2 3 37 2 2 13
Pearson 0 1 0 0 14 1 0 0
Miller 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
Bennett 0 0 0 0 5 1 0 0
Atkins 0 0 0 0 11 1 0 0
Rackauskas 1 2 0 2 12 2 0 2

Totals 22 49 10 17 200 29 10 59

WARRIORS (17-5, 9-3 wac)

fg fga ft fta min reb a tp
Martin 4 11 1 2 40 7 1 9
Shimonovich 5 6 0 0 24 8 4 10
Lee 0 3 1 2 14 0 1 1
Kuebler 7 15 1 2 38 5 3 21
Sensley 5 10 0 1 40 8 2 11
Sottos 3 10 1 1 25 1 7 10
Zivanovic 0 1 0 0 12 5 0 0
Nash 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0
Blackett 0 1 0 0 5 0 0 0

Totals 24 57 4 8 200 37 18 62

Key -- fg: field goals; fga: field goals attempted; ft: free throws; fta: free throws attempted; min: minutes; reb: rebounds; a: assists; tp: total points.
Halftime -- SMU 25, Hawaii 24
3-point goals -- SMU 5-13 (Hopkins 3-7, Isham 1-1, Lowe 1-4, Castro 0-1), Hawaii 10-25 (Kuebler 6-11, Sottos 3-9, Sensley 1-3, Lee 0-2). Personal fouls -- SMU 14, Hawaii 14.
Steals -- SMU 6 (Hopkins 3, Isham 2, Bennett), Hawaii 3 (Shimonovich, Kuebler, Sensley). Blocked shots -- SMU 1 (Simpson), Hawaii 4 (Shimonovich 2, Martin 2). Turnovers -- SMU 12 (Isham 3, Castro 3, Simpson 2, Hopkins, Lowe, Miller, Atkins), Hawaii 13 (Kuebler 4, Shimonovich 3, Martin 2, Sottos 2, Sensley, Zivanovic). Officials -- Jackson, Sitov, Sorenson. A -- 7,883.


Sottos’ time finally comes

In the frantic final minutes of Hawaii's 62-59 basketball victory over Southern Methodist last night at the Stan Sheriff Center, it was forgotten by some that the Rainbows might not have had a chance to win if not for Jake Sottos.

He ended the game in the same place where he started it, and the same place where he spends the entirety of most games -- on the bench.

But the UH coaches and players remembered what he did in the middle last night.

"Jake for sure helped us," Rainbows coach Riley Wallace said.

Sottos, who hadn't played in the previous five games, finished last night's contest with career highs in just about everything, including postgame smiles and compliments from his teammates.

"Jake took a lot of pressure off me," said UH's Michael Kuebler, who led the Rainbows with 21 points. "He got me fired up with his shooting and I probably got some better looks because of him."

Sottos, a junior guard, played cameo roles in Hawaii's first eight games this season. But once the Western Athletic Conference schedule started, his limited playing time shrunk to nearly nothing. Before last night, the JC transfer from Monmouth, Ill., barely worked up a sweat in two league appearances, against Texas-El Paso and Fresno State.

"Yeah, I got down a little bit," Sottos said. "But coach (Bob) Burke told me to hang in there, they're going to rely on me one of these games, that I'd have my time."

That time was last night, and there was plenty of it.

Sottos played a solid 25 minutes and kept the Rainbows in the game early. He scored all 10 of his points in the first half.

With coach Riley Wallace unhappy with the shot selection of regular point guards Logan Lee and Jason Carter, Sottos -- normally a 2-guard and not the primary ballhandler -- was thrown into action.

Since the Mustangs like to play zone and Sottos had shown him some toughness in practice this week, Wallace told him to be ready to play.

In addition to making three of six 3-pointers in the first half, Sottos played a solid floor game with a game-high seven assists and only two turnovers.

"I didn't try to do anything spectacular," Sottos said. "I was fortunate to come out and hit some shots. When he called on me I was ready. All shooters like zones."

Sottos also contributed to the effort against the Mustangs in practice Friday; he simulated SMU star guard Bryan Hopkins.

Hopkins finished with a team-high 16 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, but Wallace said Sottos did not hurt the Rainbows defensively -- Hopkins scored only six points in the first half, when Sottos got the bulk of his playing time.

"I knew where he was going, because, obviously, as scout team we were running all their plays," Sottos said.

UH made only one of 10 shots from the floor in the first 7:21.

Sottos helped the Rainbows out of their slump with a top-of-the-key trey at 9:02, on which he was fouled. He hit the free throw to complete a four-point play to cut SMU's lead in half and make the score 15-11.

He hit another 3-pointer from the left corner at 7:08 to cut the margin to one point.

Sottos then hit an NBA-range 3 at 1:08 before the break to make it 25-24 at the half. SMU still had the lead, but not the momentum.

"He worked hard in practice," Wallace said. "I decided to test him and see if it's for real."

Was Sottos surprised that he was "for real?"

"The assist part, yeah," he said, breaking into yet another big grin.


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