UH faces hot NMSU


POSTED: Thursday, January 21, 2010

The unconventional worked last time. Hawaii finds out today if it can work again.

UH is coming off its 1,000th program victory, a 68-67 thriller over San Jose State last Sunday when reserves Jeremy Lay and Brandon Adams were thrust into starting roles and delivered with 19 points apiece. Whatever positive momentum the Rainbow Warriors (9-9, 2-3 Western Athletic Conference) can bring to bear at home this week against the WAC's top two teams, New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech, will be essential for any success.

Regular starting forwards Roderick Flemings (team-best 14.1 points per game) and Petras Balocka (8.3 points per game, team-best 8.6 rebounds per game) came off the bench vs. SJSU and are still listed as reserves for tonight as they deal with a sore knee and shoulder, respectively. Guard Dwain Williams (14.0 ppg) is a question mark before he departs for his cousin's mainland funeral this weekend.

“;You know, our team has dealt with adverse situations all year long,”; UH coach Bob Nash said. “;Whether it's injuries, suspensions, whatever it is. We've had to deal with that. So all we can do as coaches is ask the next guy to be ready when his time comes.”;

If it was a question of pure firepower, UH — tied for sixth in the WAC standings — would get shot down 10 out of 10 times against NMSU (11-7, 4-1). The hope is that the energy and chemistry the Rainbows discovered against the Spartans will translate against the Aggies, who feature two of the top five scorers in the league in guards Jahmar Young (20.3 ppg) and Jonathan Gibson (19.1). Both are over the 1,000-point career plateau.

And the visitors are on a serious roll, having won eight of nine, with the only loss at home to Nevada on Jan. 4. NMSU is 2-0 in WAC road games.





        » Who: New Mexico State (11-7, 4-1) at Hawaii (9-9, 2-3)

» When: Today, 7:05 p.m.


» Where: Stan Sheriff Center


» TV: KFVE, Ch. 5;


» Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM


“;They're a great team,”; Nash said. “;We know we have a hell of a task ahead of us, but sometimes it's not about the best five. It's about the best five that play together, and we hope that our five will go out there and play well together, and see what happens.”;

If NMSU has a weakness, it's that the Aggies are prone to giving up points in bunches. Their 78.6 points per game allowed (worst in the WAC) counterbalances their 77.0 scoring average. UH sits at the bottom of the WAC in field-goal percentage (.429), but faces the team that yields the highest conversion rate (.452) in the conference.

But NMSU's potency goes beyond its one-two guard punch. Junior forward Wendell McKines helped balance his team since becoming academically eligible in late December. An undersized double-double machine at 6-6, McKines (along with 7-foot center Hamidu Rahman) powers the Aggies' front line.

“;We're playing better basketball than we were playing earlier in the year,”; third-year coach Marvin Menzies said. “;We still got a long way to go to get to the place we'd like to be and how we'd like to be playing. It's a process and we're in the middle of it.”;

McKines was reportedly arrested last week for not paying fines from a March 2009 charge of criminal property damage, but he posted a bond and is back with the team. Another forward, Troy Gillenwater, hasn't played all year and did not make the trip as NMSU is still appealing his eligibility, Menzies said.

NMSU has won nine of 11 games in the series, including seven of nine in WAC play.

UH's Saturday game against LaTech (17-2, 5-0) closes a three-game homestand as the 'Bows play four of the next five on the road.