[ BYUH ATHLETICS ]
Seasiders ready to
take their shot
BYUH looks to end its string of
poor shooting in the postseason
The Brigham Young Hawaii basketball team has worked all season to get another shot at the NCAA Division II tournament.
The problem is, once they get that shot they have to make their shots, which they haven't had the best luck in doing.
NCAA Division II Tournament
Who: BYU-Hawaii vs. Alaska Anchorage
When: Tomorrow, 11:30 a.m.
Where: San Bernardino, Calif.
Radio: KHNR, 650 AM
No. 3 Humboldt State (24-5) vs. No. 6 Cal Poly Pomona (21-6)
No. 2 BYU-Hawaii (22-5) vs. No. 7 Alaska Anchorage (20-9)
No. 5 Alaska-Fairbanks (21-6) vs. No. 4 Cal St. Bakersfield (22-5)
No. 1 Cal St. San Bernardino (25-2) vs. No. 8 Cal St. Chico (17-10)
BYUH's tourney appearances
2000: UC-Davis L 60-53 At Seattle, Wash.
2002: Seattle Pacific L 82-57 At San Bernardino, Calif.
2003: Cal State Bakersfield L 50-41 At Laie
"To me last year was just 'Who knows?' and the year before we traveled real late," BYUH coach Ken Wagner said. "I don't worry about those things; this team can shoot, so I am confident it will shoot."
Wagner's Seasiders have made it to the NCAA Tournament four times in the past five years -- including tomorrow's first-round game against Alaska-Anchorage at San Bernardino, Calif. -- and have been booted in the first round every time.
They have lost close games and been blown out. They have lost with big teams and small. They have lost at home and on the road.
But they have never lost when they have shot as well as they were supposed to.
BYUH is historically one of the best shooting programs in the country, hanging right around the 50 percent mark like they are this year. Unfortunately, they are not able to carry it over into the postseason, when they have never shot better than 38 percent.
BYUH's inaccurate tendencies reached their low point last year in Laie, when the top-seeded Seasiders shot 26 percent and were bounced by Cal State Bakersfield.
"Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't," Beau Nobmann said. "We hosted last year, so you would think we wouldn't get those types of nerves, but we did. There is more to it than choking, though."
Before last year, they shot 35 percent in a loss to Seattle Pacific in 2002 and 38 percent in a loss to UC Davis in 2000.
Nobmann, who runs the show as the lone senior and starting point guard, expects this year to be different, the season when the Seasiders will get their first win in the NCAA Tournament. But he felt the same way last year.
"Last year we were so one-dimensional," Nobmann said. "Now we have four options and any one of them can put the ball into the hole. I think we got the right shots last year, (All-American Alexus Foyle) just didn't make shots he had been making all year long. Now we can go to another guy if that happens."
Playing the part of Foyle in this year's drama will be PacWest player of the year Jake Chrisman, a mobile power forward who spends as much time setting picks in the frontcourt as he does blocking shots in the paint. Chrisman, who was playing baseball for BYU-Provo last year at this time, led the Pacific West Conference in scoring with 22.7 points per game. Joining him on the list of options available to Nobmann are Austin Smylie (11.9), Shawn Opunui (16.1) and Michael Stowell (14.0).
Smylie led the conference in shooting at 62 percent, while Opunui hit 54.1 percent of his shots from beyond the arc, good for second in the nation.
Smylie and Opunui joined HPU's Aaron Abrams and Montana State-Billings on the conference's first team yesterday and Wagner earned his third coach-of-the-year award.
All they have to do is keep it up.
After so many disappointments -- Wagner calls last year's collapse the toughest loss he has ever endured -- the Seasiders have more than themselves to please. The campus in Laie has been largely supportive, trying to shed its team of the choker label by never mentioning it. But with nine of the players on the team married, the Seasiders know a thing or two about pleasing people who love you enough to demand the best.
"People around the campus are talking about it, like it is the only thing left to do," Nobmann said. "They say, 'You've got to get past the first round, you've got to get past the first round.'
"No one on the team is thinking like that, we are looking at the finish line."
This is the point guard's last shot at putting an NCAA title on the shelf with the state championships he won at Mercer Island High School in Washington state, so excuse his sense of urgency.
Wagner, who took the team four games into the NAIA Tournament in 1992, certainly has.
"I don't think (winning in the first round) is that big a deal," Wagner said. "It is more important being there, but this team is a lot like last year's in that it is capable of making an extended run."