Savovic 'probable' for Fresno
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
RENO, Nev. If the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team is to get back on top the Western Athletic Conference standings, much will depend on the back of Predrag Savovic.
Savovic, the Rainbow Warriors' leading scorer, missed most of the second half of a 79-69 Hawai'i loss at Nevada last night after suffering muscle spasms in his lower back.
The loss dropped Hawai'i a half-game behind Tulsa atop the WAC standings. Tulsa completed its regular-season with a 15-3 conference record, including two losses to Hawai'i.
The 'Bows are 14-3, with their regular-season finale scheduled for tomorrow at Fresno State. UH needs to win tomorrow's game to tie Tulsa for the regular-season title, and earn the top seed for next week's WAC Tournament.
Savovic is listed as probable for tomorrow, according to team trainer Melody Toth. However, she is worried about the 6-foot-6 senior having to endure an uncomfortable flight to Fresno, Calif., today.
Savovic also had an uncomfortable seat on the bench during the second half last night, as the 'Bows could never rally from a 35-29 halftime deficit.
"It was very frustrating," said Savovic, who played 22 minutes, but just four in the second half. "I thought we'd come back strong in the second half and then this thing happens. I personally feel responsible for this loss."
Savovic was limited to five points, all in the first half. He entered last night's game averaging 20.1 points per game, and had scored in double-figures in each of his previous 20 games this season.
The injury came less than two minutes into the second half. While dribbling near the top of the key, Savovic suddenly stopped and clutched his back. Moments later, he crumpled to the court in pain.
"I just twisted it wrong or something," he said. "Nobody hit me."
Savovic shot 2-of-7 from the field, including just 1-of-5 from 3-point range. He tried to return to the court midway through the second half, but lasted just two minutes before returning to the bench for good for the final 10 minutes.
"I just couldn't do it," he said. "I could barely stand up straight."
Nevada head coach Trent Johnson said Savovic's injury was one of the keys to Nevada's victory.
"I'm a realist, and you don't lose a kid like that and not have it hurt you," Johnson said. "You take out one of the best players in the league."
If Savovic is unable to play tomorrow, either Mike McIntyre or Mindaugas Burneika would take his place in the starting lineup. The 'Bows have already played seven games without Savovic this season when he had to sit out an NCAA-issued penalty for his past participation with professionals in Europe.
"I want to play more than anything," Savovic said. "But we have to take care of this (injury) first and talk to the doctors. If it's up to me, I'll play."
Smart money: Perhaps the bettors knew something.
Hawai'i was listed as a 2-point favorite in the Reno casinos on Wednesday night. By yesterday afternoon, Nevada became a 1 1/2-point favorite.