By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
DALLAS - In the city nicknamed "Big D," the Hawaii mens basketball team played "Short D" and came up short in a 69-56 loss to Southern Methodist yesterday.
|Hawaiis Carl English gets off a pass to a teammate just before SMUs Jeryl Sasser could move in to intercept.
Playing without injured center and co-captain Troy Ostler, the Rainbows were beat where it hurt the most - down low - before 2,306 fans at Moody Coliseum, and a regional television audience on Fox Sports Southwest.
On a trip that proved to be harsher than the cold temperatures in Dallas, Hawaii opened its Western Athletic Conference season 0-2 in Texas. The Rainbows fell to 6-7 overall with their third consecutive loss. SMU improved to 11-3 and 2-0.
"We are not as strong as we could be at this point because we dont have the inside game," Hawaii coach Riley Wallace said. "But we have to understand that we still have some talent on the floor. That just means we have to do little things like be patient and work for shots on offense, and box out for rebounds on defense."
Instead, the Rainbows did not do enough of either.
Hawaii made 24 of its 65 shots (37 percent), including 7-of-22 (32 percent) from 3-point range, which resulted in its lowest point total of the season. In the decisive first half, the Rainbows were a dismal 11-for-33 from the field and 2-of-12 from behind the arc.
"And the game plan was not that," Wallace said. "The game plan was not to even look for a shot until we made two or three passes, but guys were rushing to shoot 3s and so they were missing."
Rather than playing like Hoosiers, the Rainbows tried to match the Mustangs shot-for-shot in the first half, a tactic that worked in favor of the bigger and more athletic SMU starters.
"We would play together, then break down, then play together, then break down," said Hawaii guard Predrag Savovic, who scored a team-high 16 points. "It was not enough of the playing together."
Rainbow freshman reserve guard Carl English, who finished with career-highs of 10 points and eight rebounds, added: "We would get in the swing of the offense, and then get excited and throw up some wild shots. We just needed to settle down, because when we played within the offense, we hung with (SMU)."
Indeed, when the Rainbows slowed the pace in the second half - after a stern halftime lecture from Wallace - the game was a virtual deadlock, with each team scoring 31 points.
Problem was, Hawaii entered the intermission trailing 38-25.
Early in the second half, the Rainbows went on a 9-0 run to cut the SMU lead to 44-39, but the Mustangs answered with a 13-0 surge to avoid any late-game drama.
In addition to their poor shooting in the first half, the Rainbows were out-rebounded 31-12. For the game, SMU finished with a 49-31 advantage on the boards.
"Hawaii was hurting inside, no question," SMU coach Mike Dement said. "But we rebounded very well, especially in the first half."
Whats more, the Mustangs continuously attacked the inside of the center-less Hawaii defense. Willie Davis, a 6-foot-6, 230-pound forward, muscled his way to 16 points and nine rebounds; Damon Hancock, a 6-4, 200-pound point guard, consistently drove past Rainbow defenders for 17 points.
Jeryl Sasser, a 6-6 guard who is SMUs best player, scored just nine points - half of his average - but hurt Hawaii with game-highs of 12 rebounds and eight assists.
Most telling, the Mustangs attempted only four 3-pointers, making two. In the second half, each of SMUs 12 made field goals came from within five feet of the basket.
"Theyre not stupid," Wallace said. "They realize we dont have that big man in there to contest shots and grab rebounds."
When the Mustangs werent making point-blank shots, they were shooting free throws. Hawaii was called for 21 fouls, resulting in SMU shooting 17-for-28 from the free-throw line. By comparison, SMU committed 10 fouls, which led to the games most stunning statistic: Hawaii made just one trip to the free-throw line, with Savovic going 1-for-2.
Wallace, however, had no complaints about the officiating.
"(SMU) created fouls by taking us to the basket," he said. "We didnt go to the basket. We shot 22 3s."
Dement said he learned of Ostlers status moments before the game, although he had already devised a strategy to challenge the Rainbows near the basket.
OVER AND BACK: Hawaii guard Mike McIntyre played for the first time since spraining his right ankle two weeks ago. He finished with two points in 20 minutes. ... Reserve center Todd Fields, who grew up near Dallas in Mesquite, Texas, tied his career-high with eight points while playing in front of more than 20 friends and family members. ... The Rainbows will return to Honolulu today.
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