’Bows get spark from
the bench

The Hawaii basketball team hasn't had trouble getting points from its bench. The hard part is trying to guess which UH reserve will be the next to provide the spark.

The play of the Rainbow Warriors' non-starters has been a key for UH throughout the season, with players taking turns igniting the team off the bench.

"It seems like it's a different guy every game," UH coach Riley Wallace said. "As long as we can keep doing that, we'll keep it that way."

Six Rainbows have combined to post 18 double-digit scoring nights while playing reserve roles this season.

"You try to give a spark and prove you can help the team," said senior forward Vaidotas Peciukas.

Entering last week's games, non-starters accounted for nearly 40 percent of the Rainbows' scoring output. That number has dipped to 37 percent going into Saturday's Western Athletic Conference game at San Jose State, but the bench still contributed in the Rainbows' wins over Rice and Tulsa last week.

Sophomore Bobby Nash scored a career-high 20 points against Rice and junior guard Deonte Tatum returned from an illness to spark UH defensively against Tulsa. Forward Matthew Gipson tallied eight points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in reserve duty last week.

Although his overall numbers may not be impressive, Peciukas has found ways to contribute in his 7.8 minutes per game.

Peciukas has started six games in his UH career, but settled into a role as a contributor off the bench this season, providing several big plays late in contests.

He made the go-ahead layup in the final minute against Southern Illinois earlier this season. Against Rice, he played several critical minutes down the stretch, grabbing a key offensive rebound and hitting four free throws.

"I've been here long enough that I'm used to it," Peciukas said of being ready when called upon. "That's my role to come out and help any way I can. I'm always ready."

Perhaps more than in recent years, Wallace has had to juggle combinations on the fly to find the most effective lineup. UH has used six different starting lineups, with forward Julian Sensley and center Chris Botez the only Rainbows to start all 17 games.

The backcourt has been particularly fluid, with Tatum, Nash, Matt Gibson and Jake Sottos rotating into the starting five this season.

Sottos' play coming off the bench has earned him starts in the last three games. Sottos worked his way into the pregame introductions by shooting 50 percent from the field and hitting 23 3-pointers over the last six contests.

Weighty matters: The Rainbows hope spending more time in the weight room will lead to a strong finish this season.

The UH coaches scheduled time into the practice schedule for the players to lift weights last week and again after a light practice on Monday. Wallace said the added strength training helped the team late in last week's games.

"We had it at the end. It's always helped before so we wanted to make sure these guys came in here," Wallace said after observing a lifting session in the Waterhouse Training Facility.

Nash said the workouts made a difference as the Rainbows closed out tight wins over Rice and Tulsa.

"We're a team that has had trouble in the last 5 minutes of the game," Nash said. "But now a lot of guys are stronger ... it puts us in an aggressive frame of mind and it's helping our team."

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