Hawaii's Matthew Gipson dunked over Fresno State's Mustafa Al-Sayyad on Wednesday night.

’Bows need quick start

A poor first half hurt Hawaii in its
last visit to play Nevada

The Hawaii basketball team is looking to get off to a fast start in the new year. Or at least a better start than the one the Rainbow Warriors experienced the last time they visited Reno, Nev.

College Basketball

Hawaii at Nevada

When: Today, 7 p.m. (Hawaii time)

Where: Lawlor Events Center

TV: Live, ESPN2

Radio: Live, KKEA 1420-AM

Internet: HawaiiAthletics.com

In their last appearance at the Lawlor Events Center, the Rainbows suffered through a frigid first half and trailed 31-16 at halftime en route to a 13-point loss to Nevada. When UH returns tonight, the 'Bows will try to warm up a bit earlier in hopes of ringing in the new year on a more festive note.

"We have to get started here," UH coach Riley Wallace said. "With the altitude and stuff sometimes it can hurt you early, then you get accustomed to it. So they have to get right into it."

The Rainbows and Wolf Pack meet in a nationally televised WAC game tonight at 7 (Hawaii time). The contest will be shown on ESPN2.

On the first day of 2005, the Rainbows will try to accomplish a first for the program, as UH has never won a road game against Nevada.

The team didn't arrive at the Reno Hilton until 1:30 a.m. yesterday, as the snow storm that hammered the Sierra Nevada mountain range on Thursday turned their scheduled 5-hour bus ride from Fresno into a 15-hour stop-and-go journey.

While the delays cost the Rainbows their scheduled practice session, the trek did take their minds off the disappointment of their 79-78 loss at Fresno State on Wednesday.

The Rainbows (8-1, 0-1 WAC) lost for the first time this season despite shooting 49 percent from the floor, making 11 of 16 free throws and outrebounding Fresno State 34-32. UH dished out a season-high 24 assists and committed just six turnovers.

UH had no trouble with a slow start in taking an 11-point lead against the Bulldogs. It was the end that gave them problems.

"We played well, we just didn't finish the game down the stretch," Wallace said. "We didn't take care of it when we had the lead, which has been our trait all year. We let people back in after we've built up a lead."

UH needs a win tonight to salvage a split of its opening road trip of the WAC season.

Nevada had an 18-game home winning streak snapped by Pacific on Dec. 11 to fall to 4-3 in Mark Fox's first year as head coach. Since then the Pack (8-3, 1-0) have reeled off four straight victories, and opened WAC play with a 70-55 win over San Jose State on Thursday.

Fox, an associate head coach for four years at Nevada, took over the program when Trent Johnson was hired at Stanford in the offseason.

"It's been a little different, but not as different as most situations because I was able to retain two assistants from last year's staff and Coach Johnson gave me a lot of responsibility as an assistant," Fox said. "So I think it's been as easy a transition as it possibly could have been.

"It would be nicer if (Kirk) Snyder was still around, but life's not perfect."

Snyder, the WAC Player of the Year last season, helped the Wolf Pack capture the WAC championship last spring and sparked its memorable run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

Nevada entered the season needing to rebuild its back court, but the Wolf Pack guards appear to be rounding into form and freshman point guard Ramon Sessions leads the WAC with 67 assists.

"Our guards have progressed nicely and are starting to look like they're a little more comfortable, and that's going to be the key for us the next couple of months," Fox said.

While the guards adjust to Division I competition, the Wolf Pack have relied on forwards Nick Fazekas and Kevinn Pinkney.

Fazekas, a 6-foot-11 sophomore, leads Nevada with 19.5 points per game and 18 blocked shots. He is also the Wolf Pack's top 3-point shooter (13-for-32). But Fox is looking for even more out of Fazekas.

"He's putting up pretty good numbers, but I don't think he's playing as well as he can play and I don't think he feels he is either," Fox said.

Pinkney sat out Thursday's game with a sprained ankle, but Fox hopes he'll be available tonight. The 6-10 senior is averaging 13.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

UH counters with a front court that enjoyed a productive night against Fresno State. Forward Jeff Blackett nearly posted the program's first triple-double with 18 points, nine rebounds and eight assists against the Bulldogs, while Julian Sensley led the 'Bows with 23 points.

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