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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, November 24, 2001

'Bows bounce back to thump Mercer, 89-72

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

HILO — It may have been a road game for the Hawai'i men's basketball team yesterday, but that didn't stop it from running on Hawaiian time.

UH's Carl English soars above Mercer's Bobby Hamilton for a layup.

Associated Press

Overcoming a slow start for the second consecutive game, the Rainbow Warriors defeated Mercer, 89-72, in a first-round game of the Big Island Invitational. A crowd of 1,075 — most of them Hawai'i-Hilo fans — adopted the 'Bows for two hours last night at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium for UH's first appearance ever in Hilo.

"It seems like we start out slow every game, but not on purpose," said sophomore forward Phil Martin. "I don't want it to be our theme, but as long as we win, I guess it doesn't matter."

Martin epitomized the Hawai'i attack, scoring 13 of his 15 points in the second half.

"Second half, we picked up our intensity on the boards and (had) better shot selection," UH head coach Riley Wallace said. "We were more patient with our offense."

As a result, the 'Bows connected on 21 of 33 shots (63 percent) in the second half to pull away from the feisty Bears. Overall, Hawai'i shot 58 percent (33-of-57) compared to 52 percent for the Bears (28-of-54).

Hawai'i played without three players — star guard Predrag Savovic, and forwards Luc-Arthur Vebobe and Tony Akpan — for the third consecutive game because of ongoing NCAA investigations. The 'Bows have won all three games.

"Of course we miss them," said senior captain Mindaugas Burneika, who scored a game-high 19 points. "But we have to do what we can to win without them, and right now we are doing that."

All three players will likely have to sit out the entire tournament. Hawai'i will play Colorado State in a semifinal game today at 5 p.m. The Rams defeated South Carolina State, 66-48, in another first-round game yesterday.

"That's going to be the toughest team we've played so far," Wallace said of Colorado State. "They're a good team."

The 'Bows proved last night that they aren't too bad themselves.

Five players scored in double-figures: Burneika (19), Mike McIntyre (16), Martin (15), Carl English (14) and Haim Shimonovich (12). The only starter not in double-figures, point guard Mark Campbell, scored two but handed out 11 assists.

"Mark obviously knows how to run things," Wallace said of the junior transfer.

Still, Hawai'i trailed the winless Bears (0-3) early, even though only momentarily. With English and Shimonovich on the bench with two fouls apiece, McIntyre scored six points and Burneika five during a 15-2 run late in the first that turned a 19-15 deficit into a 30-21 lead.

Burneika had 10 points at halftime with Hawai'i holding a 36-26 lead, but his counterpart for Mercer, Aleem Muhammad, hit 7-of-8 field goals in the first half and had 16 of Mercer's 26 points.

Because of that, Wallace switched defensive assignments late in the first half, putting the more athletic Martin on Muhammad.

"My main concern was stopping him," Martin said. "I felt like I kind of slowed him down a little bit at the end of the first half, so in the second half, I tried to focus on my offense."

Added Mercer head coach Mark Slonaker: "I really thought the game changed in the last eight minutes of the first half. When they put Martin on (Muhammad), it slowed him down and it slowed us down."

Martin, sporting new-look, knee-high black socks — to match the color of the ankle braces he must now wear, he said — shot 5-of-6 from the field in the second half. More important, he limited Muhammad to six points on 1-of-3 shooting.

"I thought Phil had a good ball game overall," Wallace said. "He did a pretty good job (on Muhammad) in the second half."

Hawai'i opened the second half with an 8-2 surge that pushed the lead to 44-28, and all but put the game away. The 'Bows built the lead to as much as 22 midway through the second half, and never allowed the Bears to get closer than 12 after intermission.

"We just ran our offense a little better," Burneika said. "We took quick shots in the first half, and that was killing us. We passed it better in the second half."

Hawai'i also won the rebounding battle, 32-27, thanks to a 17-12 advantage in the second half. Shimonovich led with eight rebounds.

Muhammad (22) and Brad Arthur (10) were the only Bears to score in double-figures. Mercer played without its top player, forward Scott Emerson, who has an ankle injury.

"We never established an inside game," Slonaker said. "And if you don't attack Hawai'i inside, it's very tough to match them shooting."

• Wisconsin 78, Hawai'i Hilo 62: Kirk Penney and Charlie Wills each scored 15 points to lift Wisconsin over host Hawai'i-Hilo in the opening round of the Big Island Invitational.

The Badgers (1-1) held the Vulcans (2-1) to 14 points over the final 11 minutes and five of those came in the final 30 seconds.

David LaQua's 3-pointer with 11:14 to play brought Hawai'i-Hilo, a Division II school, within 52-48 but the Vulcans went scoreless for the next 5:54, failing to convert on eight straight possessions.

The Badgers weren't exactly an offensive juggernaut during that span, but a drive by Freddie Owens with 7:58 left gave them their first double-digit lead, 58-48, and Wisconsin went on to extend the lead to as much as 76-57 with 54 seconds left on a free throw by Devin Harris.

Wills had nine rebounds to lead Wisconsin's 41-29 advantage on the boards.

Owens and Harris each had 13 points for Wisconsin, which shot 64 percent from the field in the second half (16-for-25).

Derek Mgbeke had 15 points for the Vulcans, who used an 8-2 run over the final 1:17 of the first half to get within 31-30.

• Colorado State 66, South Carolina State 48: Brian Green recorded 15 points, five rebounds and five assists to lead the Rams over the Bulldogs in yesterday's first game.

Colorado State (3-0) raced to a 31-17 lead in the first half and maintained it the rest of the way. South Carolina State (0-2) shot just 25 percent from the field in the first half (6-of-24) and 26 percent for the game (15-of-57).

Matt Nelson added 12 points and six rebounds, and Andy Birley 10 points and six assists for the Rams. LaRon Mapp came off the bench to score 15 points for the Bulldogs.

• Weber State 75, Louisiana State 74 (OT): Stephan Bachmann scored eight of his 12 points in overtime, including an improbable bank shot at the buzzer to lead the Wildcats over the Tigers in yesterday's second game.

LSU's Ronald Dupree scored on a difficult baseline shot over the 6-10 Bachmann with five seconds remaining in overtime to give the Tigers a momentary 74-73 lead.

After calling a timeout with two seconds left, Weber State's Brad Barton completed a pass from half-court to Bachmann under the basket. He turned and banked in a shot from about five feet away to give the Wildcats the victory.

The Associated Press contributed to this report