Reeling 'Bows hope to end skid


POSTED: Thursday, February 18, 2010

Big losses mean big changes in the Hawaii frontcourt.

The L's are mounting — seven straight and nine in the last 10 games — for the Rainbow Warriors, who are scrambling for a berth to the Western Athletic Conference basketball tournament.

While guard remains the most dire position for UH (9-16, 2-10), the issues go beyond the depleted backcourt. Coach Bob Nash is searching for players to give him a solid look in the paint because anyone not named Roderick Flemings or Brandon Adams has failed to produce of late.

Senior mainstays Petras Balocka and Paul Campbell have seen their minutes decline sharply since Jan. 17 — otherwise known as the last time the Rainbows won. The beneficiaries: redshirt sophomore Ji Xiang and junior Douglas Kurtz, who logged 30 combined minutes in UH's 88-64 loss at New Mexico State on Monday.

UH matched its longest single-season losing streak under Nash (it dropped the final seven games of his inaugural 2007-08 year). If the host Rainbows lose on Saturday to Cal Poly in an ESPN BracketBusters matchup, it'll be the most consecutive in a season since 1987-88 — Riley Wallace's first year (10 straight in a 4-25 campaign).

“;Just gonna continue to work 'til this thing is over,”; Nash said yesterday after the team's first practice since arriving home from Las Cruces, N.M.

“;This is why these guys came here, to try to win games, try to be competitive. That's what we're gonna do.”;

The Mustangs of the Big West Conference (9-16) offer a chance to snap the Rainbows' slide before UH plays its final four WAC games. Tip-off is at 8 p.m.

Could fan-favorite Ji build on a career night? He was UH's human victory cigar in garbage time last year and during nonconference play this season, but the native of China made a case for more playing time with career highs of nine points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes at the hostile Pan American Center.





        » What: Cal Poly (9-16) at Hawaii (9-16)

» When: 8 p.m. Saturday


» TV/Radio: KFVE, Ch. 5, KKEA, 1420-AM


He apparently hasn't been spoiled by his treatment at the Stan Sheriff Center, where he gets a near-standing ovation when he checks in.

“;For me, no matter home or away, it's the same,”; the 6-foot-10 Ji said. “;Just get on the floor and play hard. I don't really care about home or away. 'Cause I'm away from home all the time.”;

Balocka started, but played just 7 minutes at NMSU, getting the hook after two quick fouls. He had a 20-20 (points, rebounds) game earlier this season and averaged a double-double after a month of play, but his averages have fallen to 7.2 points and 7.7 boards in 22.9 minutes.

The volatile Lithuanian is flustered like the rest of the downtrodden 'Bows, but realizes his coach has a right to tinker with the lineup.

“;I mean, for me at times it gets frustrating, but we're not winning when I'm in there I guess,”; Balocka said. “;Coach is trying to change things and put other players in there, which is understandable. In my opinion Ji had a pretty good game last game, I was very happy for him. You know, Coach just trying different things and trying to see if something's going to work. So it is what it is.”;

Nash alluded to potential changes for the final five regular-season games after watching Ji and the 7-foot Kurtz mix it up with NMSU's posts for extended minutes.

“;They had some big people in there, so we threw them in there to see what they could do, and I thought they acquitted themselves well,”; Nash said. “;Ji in particular ... (and) I thought Doug had some great moments in there. So those are things we can just build on going forward. Not just throw those guys in there; leave those guys in there for extended minutes if we feel like the other bigs are tired or not getting the job done.”;

Thompson battling through

At NMSU, junior point guard Hiram Thompson stoically played through another contest with a bum left shoulder. He took several hits against the Aggies' fullcourt pressure and was in obvious pain in 26 minutes of play, but was back in practice yesterday.

“;I re-tweaked it in the New Mexico game,”; the team captain said. “;That's what happens, here and there you're going to get hit. Going to rehab this week and hopefully get it better.

“;It's not as bad as when I hurt it the first time. I can go, I can do anything right now. Still pretty tender, but we don't have enough numbers (three active guards) for me to rest.”;