Play-in awaits 'Bows


POSTED: Sunday, March 08, 2009

One team played as though it was saving itself from an unfavorable fate in the Western Athletic Conference tournament. Another came out with a lackluster performance that might be expected of a team that was locked into its seeding position.
























        NEXT UP

        vs. Fresno St. on Tuesday




Hawaii and New Mexico State didn't fulfill the roles that one might expect last night at the Stan Sheriff Center. With the stakes as high as they've been all season for the Rainbow Warriors, they couldn't play their way out of the WAC tournament play-in game with a demoralizing 70-59 loss to the Aggies.

Eighth-place Hawaii (13-16, 5-11) will have to win four games in Reno, Nev., starting on Tuesday against Fresno State to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, something no other team has done in the WAC. If the Rainbows manage to beat the Bulldogs, they earn an unenviable date with top seed Utah State.

It was a disheartening blow in that UH was fighting to increase its standing and chances to succeed next week, while NMSU (16-14, 9-7) was locked into the game between the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds. It was also Hawaii's home finale.

“;It's all on us,”; point guard Kareem Nitoto said. “;Players gotta play, and we didn't show up to play. We knew what was at stake. This was a must-win game and we didn't come out and play like it was a must-win game. We came out like we were the team playing for fourth or fifth place and it really didn't matter if we won or lost. We ... played like we were crowned kings before the game started.”;

The WAC's leading scorer, Jahmar Young, also didn't play the entire first half because of academic issues. It hardly mattered—Troy Gillenwater stepped up big with 18 points, Wendell McKines added 16, Jonathan Gibson 13 and Hernst Laroche 10.

They all contributed to dealing Hawaii its fourth straight loss and fifth in six games. The Rainbows depart early this morning for Reno.

“;Now it's one and done, and hopefully we'll treat it like that,”; forward Bill Amis said. “;We'll try to get some good practices in (before Tuesday) and hope to make some noise.”;

New Mexico State's swarming pressure defense had the Rainbows on the ropes all night, leading to 32.1 percent shooting and 21 turnovers. The Aggies double-teamed Roderick Flemings at every turn and forced the ball into the hands of other Rainbows against their match-up zone.

UH didn't seem prepared for it, despite facing similar schemes from teams all season. NMSU collected 10 steals in the first half—in which they forced 14 Hawaii turnovers—and led nearly wire-to-wire before going up by 18 with 9 minutes, 26 seconds to play. The crowd of 4,698 was quiet most of the night as UH was off balance from the opening tip.

“;We had an opportunity tonight to play our way out of the play-in game, and for some reason, the first half was probably the worst first half of basketball that we've played this year,”; Hawaii coach Bob Nash said. “;We just did not attack the zone very well, and did not guard very well.”;

Hawaii inserted Lasha Parghalava midway through the second half for some 3-point shooting and got it to 59-50 with 6 minutes, 43 seconds left. But that was as close as it would get in the second half—NMSU went on an 8-0 run to close it out.

Nitoto scored 11 and Amis added 10 points and 10 rebounds for Hawaii. Flemings chipped in nine—only the second time this season he was held to less than double figures.

UH was plagued by turnovers early and often. Just minutes into the game, NMSU forced Hawaii giveaways on five straight possessions to claim a 12-4 lead. Even when the Rainbows managed to break the Aggies' fullcourt press, the visitors bled seconds off the shot clock and made it more difficult for Hawaii in the halfcourt. Several times, UH forced up bad attempts as the shot clock ran down completely.

“;We came out with a lot of energy, and we played like this game meant something to us—which it did,”; NMSU coach Marvin Menzies said. “;We had lost our last two games and I thought it was important that we set a good tone going into the WAC tournament.”;


NMSU 70, Hawaii 59




















































































































































































Aggies (16-14, 9-7)



Rainbow Warriors (13-16, 5-11)

Halftime—New Mexico State 35, Hawaii 25
3-point goals—New Mexico State 5-12 (Gibson 3-5, McKines 1-2, Castillo 1-4, Young 0-1), Hawaii 5-19 (Nitoto 2-5, Parghalava 2-5, Lutu 1-1, Amis 0-1, Thompson 0-2, Mayen 0-2, Flemings 0-3).
Steals—New Mexico State 13 (Laroche 4, McKines 3, Gibson 3, Castillo, Young, Gillenwater), Hawaii 8 (Amis 4, Campbell, Flemings, Nitoto, Adams). Blocked shots—New Mexico State 5 (Gillenwater 2, McKines, Rahman, Merker), Hawaii 3 (Flemings, Amis, Thompson).
Officials—Rick Bastell, Ken Neilson, Doran Gotschall. Attendance—4,698.


WAC Standings

Utah St.142.875274.871
Boise St.97.5631911.633
New Mexico St.97.5631614.533
Louisiana Tech610.3751417.452
San Jose St.610.3751316.448
Fresno St.313.1881220.375

Utah State 89, San Jose State 77
Idaho 59, Fresno State 56
New Mexico State 70, Hawaii 59