UH defeats UTEP, 75-60
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
There was a lot to celebrate for the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team last night.
Jeff Widener The Honolulu Advertiser
Typical of the physical play throughout last night's game, University of Hawai'i's Carl English, left, and Haim Shimonovich double-teamed Brian Stewart of Texas-El Paso as they battled for a rebound.
Jeff Widener The Honolulu Advertiser
"It's amazing," said UH sophomore forward Phil Martin. "Who would have expected something like this? It's like every night something special happens."
The 'Bows have certainly been a special team in the Stan Sheriff Center, where they have now won nine consecutive games. A crowd of 7,595 last night watched Hawai'i improve to 19-3 overall, while remaining alone in first place in the Western Athletic Conference at 10-1.
It is UH's best start in 30 years, and its best WAC start ever. Two victories have come against UTEP, which fell to 9-14 overall and 3-8 in the WAC with its 12th consecutive road loss.
As he has been for three seasons now, Savovic was the major factor against the Miners.
His 32 points, which included 22 in the decisive second half, established a career-high for the 6-foot-6 senior guard. The three highest-scoring games of his career have come against UTEP.
"I think we need to tell Savo we're playing UTEP every night," UH head coach Riley Wallace said.
Savovic shot 10-of-15 from the field, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range, and 9-of-11 from the free-throw line.
"Obviously, Savovic was the difference," UTEP head coach Jason Rabedeaux said. "He gets 32 and made some tough shots. We face-guarded him and did what we could, but he's a good player."
In the two victories over UTEP this season, Savovic scored 61 points. In six career games against the Miners, he is averaging 26 points per game.
"Good riddance to him," Rabedeaux joked.
But Savovic was not the only 'Bow causing problems for UTEP. English, celebrating his birthday, scored 17 points, including 11 in the first half. Martin added 15 points, four rebounds and four steals.
The trio of Savovic, English and Martin combined to score 64 of UH's first 67 points.
"That's how it is with this team," Martin said. "Different guys pick it up on different nights."
In any case, the 'Bows led the game from start to finish, although UTEP made it closer than the final score indicated.
Hawai'i scored the first seven points of the game, and English connected on three 3-pointers in the first eight minutes to lead the 'Bows to an 18-10 lead. The Miners cut it to 27-25 late in the first half, but Martin scored on UH's next two possessions to push the lead to 31-25.
The 'Bows took a 34-29 advantage into halftime, with English (11), Martin (10) and Savovic (10) combining for 31 points.
UTEP got as close as 43-41 early in the second half, but the same three players combined to score all the points during an 11-4 run that gave the 'Bows a 54-45 lead with 10:06 remaining. The Miners never got closer than seven after that.
"We made some adjustments in the second half to try to get our guys to play the defense a little differently," Wallace said.
In particular, the 'Bows played a more aggressive post defense, which allowed Martin and center Haim Shimonovich to record eight second-half steals. For the game, UH had 10 steals and forced 15 turnovers, including 11 in the second half.
"It was the turnovers more than anything," Rabedeaux said.
But it was also Savovic, who shot from the outside when guarded by 6-foot-6 Antone Jarrell, and then from the inside when defended by 6-1 Victor Luces.
When asked if his shots were also falling in warmups, Savovic responded: "Contrary. I didn't feel it."
"I don't think I had open looks tonight," he added. "But when you step on the floor, you take what they give you."
Led by Savovic, the 'Bows shot 51 percent from the field (27-of-53), including 9-of-20 (45 percent) from 3-point range. By comparison, the Miners shot 46 percent for (26-of-57), including 3-of-11 from 3-point range.
Justino Victoriano led the Miners with 17 points, and Eugene Costello added 12.