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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 20, 2003

Reserves answered Riley's call

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Columnist

So, what did they do with the real Riley Wallace?

You know, the one you'd sometimes swear believes that a bench is something you sit on, not a place you look to for a whole lot of help from the reserves.

The one who thinks labeling somebody a "starter" means you have to use them for at least 38 minutes a game.

Clearly, that Wallace, or at least the dog-eared page in his playbook, wasn't in the Stan Sheriff Center — where the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team went to its bench early, often and in long stretches to snap a three-game losing streak with a 73-71 victory over Nevada last night.

In a game the Rainbow Warriors had to have, Wallace wasn't afraid to break with convention to accomplish it, going 10-deep into the roster. In a game that could have meant their season, Wallace got everybody — or what sometimes seemed like it — involved in the save.

And, maybe, just maybe that was part of the difference between another close loss and a must-have-it win. After too often coming up short in the final 3 minutes lately, having some fresher legs at the end of this one sure didn't hurt.

Even Wallace acknowledged as much, saying, "I have a tendency to leave Carl (English) in too long and (the rest) might have helped his legs and his last shot some."

English, who averages 36 minutes a game and relishes every one of them, got, for him, the biggest rest in a month. He played 33 minutes, and hit the go-ahead basket with 17 seconds left.

Four days after employing just six players in a bewildering loss to San Jose State, Wallace went to the bench in the first 3 minutes, 33 seconds. He brought in the sparingly used Vaidotas Peciukas, who would play a season-high 29 minutes and contribute a much-needed six points, three assists and two rebounds.

Not because of foul trouble, either. And that would be just the start: Jason Carter, Milos Zivanovic and Ikaika Alama-Francis all joined Nkeruwem "Tony" Akpan in first-half action on a night when the bench contributed 16 points.

"They helped us out big time," sighed starting forward Phil Martin, who said his "burning legs" welcomed the respite.

Undoubtedly a large reason for the change in player deployment from Saturday was the difference in opposition and tempo: Nevada's fast break versus San Jose State's slow-it-to-a-yawn pace.

But maybe Wallace, who has been hesitant to go to his bench this season, liked enough of what he saw last night to return there more often now.