Hawaii's Jason Carter passed the ball away from the defense of Rice's J.R. Harrison during Sunday's game.

Reserves coming up big

Hawaii's role players have
taken turns in the spotlight during
the second half of the season

Hawaii's role players have been playing more than bit parts in the Rainbow Warriors' fortunes late in the Western Athletic Conference basketball season.

Over the past three weeks, the Rainbows received significant contributions from players who spend most of the week on the scout team in practice.

"When you call on them they have to be ready to produce," Hawaii coach Riley Wallace said. "Different games dictate different people and that's the way we've been."

Point guard Jason Carter and forward Jeff Blackett are the team's top reserves, but the team is getting production farther down the bench as well.

In a win over Southern Methodist, Jake Sottos sparked the team with his 3-point shooting. Vaidotas Peciukas came off the bench to score a team-high 14 points in a loss at Boise State and freshman Bobby Nash gave the 'Bows a defensive boost against Texas-El Paso.

In Sunday's Senior Day victory over Rice, it was center Paul Jesinskis' turn to contribute. He posted a career-high 12 points and five rebounds in 14 minutes in the 91-77 win.

"Everybody played their part and I just managed to fit in," Jesinskis said. "I owe it to my teammates that everything worked out great."

Hawaii's depth will be a key heading into the final week of regular season and the WAC tournament.

The Rainbows departed for Reno this morning and face Nevada on Thursday. They close the regular season at Fresno State on Saturday.

The team will stay in Fresno the following week for the WAC tournament, which opens March 9 at the Save Mart Center.

So although the festivities following Sunday's game had the feel of graduation day, the Rainbows went back to work yesterday in their final practice at home before heading on the road.

"We still have more games to play, it's not over," forward Julian Sensley said. "We have our backs against the wall and we just have to come out ready to play."

Hawaii enters the trip tied with Rice and Nevada for second place in the WAC at 11-5. Boise State is a step behind at 11-6.

Texas-El Paso (13-4) has clinched at least a tie for the WAC regular-season title. Hawaii can tie the Miners if the 'Bows sweep this week's games and UTEP loses at Boise State on Saturday.

"We need to keep everything in perspective and know it's going to be a tough road game (on Thursday)," Jesinskis said. "We just have to go in with that confidence that we had (against Rice). ... I think we're right back where we want to be. People need to come in and play their role and we'll be fine."

Ranking watch: Hawaii's sweep at home led to a reappearance in the ESPN/USA Today Top 25. The Rainbows received one point in the poll released yesterday. They had dropped out of both the coaches poll and the Associated Press polls after going 0-3 on their previous road trip.

This week's calculation of the RPI had Hawaii at No. 54. Nevada is the highest-rated WAC team at No. 42.

Rivera nets WAC award: UTEP point guard Filiberto Rivera's role in the Miners' ascent to the top of the WAC standings last week earned him conference player of the week honors yesterday.

Rivera averaged 13.7 points and 6.7 assists in three UTEP victories. He had 14 points and seven steals in the Miners' win over UH on Feb. 23. He then posted 13 points and six assists in a win at Louisiana Tech and 14 points and seven assists against SMU.

Sensley was Hawaii's nominee. He averaged 17.7 points, seven rebounds and 5.7 assists in UH's last three games.

English update: Former UH guard Carl English made his first start of the season for the Charleston Lowgators (20-12) of the National Basketball Development League over the weekend.

English, who is averaging 9.3 points per game, had four points and two assists in 23 minutes in Charleston's 116-112 win over Fayetteville last Friday. He scored eight points in 19 minutes in the rematch won by Fayetteville 105-103 on Saturday.


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