Road once again unkind as 'Bows fall to Nevada
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
RENO, Nev. Road has become a four-letter word in more ways than one for the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team.
University of Hawai'i's Haim Shiminovich pulls down one of his team-high nine rebounds in front of Nevada's Matt Ochs.
With that, a three-game, 11-day road trip that had the potential for so much promise finished unfulfilled. The 'Bows lost all three games on the trip to drop to 11-5 overall and 4-4 in the WAC.
When the 'Bows departed Honolulu on Jan. 16, they were tied for first place in the conference. After last night, Hawai'i dropped to sixth place in the 10-team WAC.
Nevada improved to 10-8 overall and took over sole possession of second place in the conference at 5-3.
"We're feeling like (expletive) right now," UH junior guard Carl English said. "This is getting to be a pattern for us on the road, and we're better than that. We just have to figure it out somehow."
Hawai'i is 1-5 on the road this season, including four consecutive losses to WAC opponents.
"The road has always been tough for Hawai'i," UH head coach Riley Wallace said. "But last year, I thought we broke that by winning some games on the road. You hate to say it, but this team is not tough enough yet."
Like in most of the other road losses, Hawai'i appeared to be in control last night before faltering late in the game.
Led by English, the 'Bows held a 52-47 lead with 8:09 remaining, and the crowd of 6,846 was silent.
"We were playing better," English said. "Then, I don't know, we hit that wall."
Over the next five minutes, the 'Bows went scoreless for six consecutive possessions while committing four turnovers. Nevada took advantage with a 14-0 surge that turned a 52-47 deficit into a 61-52 lead with 3:20 remaining in the game.
By then, the crowd and the Wolf Pack was energized.
"At home, you find that energy; the crowd pumps you up," Wallace said. "On the road, you have to pump yourself up and answer the call. We didn't."
The 'Bows never recovered, although they did get as close as 69-65 while employing a full-court press defense in the final minute.
"They just kind of stole the game from us," UH junior guard Michael Kuebler said. "It was a combination of factors, but we just weren't hitting our shots and they were making all theirs."
English scored a game-high 27 points, but as Wallace noted: "Nobody else stepped up."
Kuebler contributed 12 points all in the second half and Nkeruwem "Tony" Akpan added 10.
English shot 11-of-20 from the field, including just 3-of-10 from 3-point range. He was the only UH player to hit from long-range, as the 'Bows finished 3-of-15 on 3-pointers.
"They were being real aggressive on defense," Kuebler said. "But we were still running our offense. I think the rebounding had more to do with it."
Nevada grabbed 39 rebounds to Hawai'i's 31. It was the largest rebounding deficit of the season for the 'Bows.
What's more, the Wolf Pack scored 19 "second-chance" points off its 13 offensive rebounds, while the 'Bows got seven such points off their eight offensive rebounds.
Kirk Snyder led Nevada with a statistical double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds. Todd Okeson added 14 points, and Jerry Petty scored all 13 of his points during the decisive second half.
Petty, a 5-foot-11 senior guard, was 3-of-3 from 3-point range in the second half, and also converted 4-of-4 free throws in the final 1:19 to help clinch the victory.
"They weren't respecting me and they were leaving me (open)," Petty said of the Hawai'i defense. "I said if I miss it, it's on me. They were giving me wide-open looks and you gotta knock those down."
What's more, Petty was primarily responsible for defending English during the second half.
"I thought Jerry did as good a job as you can do," Nevada head coach Trent Johnson said. "Jerry's heart is 10 feet big."
Petty played only four minutes in the first half after picking up two early fouls. In the second half, he said: "I came out mad. The coaches said they were going to put me on (English) so I said 'I'm gonna give him hell.' "
Nevada led by as many as 20-13 midway through the first half, but the 'Bows cut it to 29-28 at halftime behind English's 15 first-half points.
The score was tied at 42 before Hawai'i went on a 10-5 run to take that 52-47 lead. Akpan and Kuebler combined to score all the points during the surge.
"We just lost our energy level in the last five minutes (of the game)," Wallace said. "Even after they made their run, we could have come right back and responded, but we didn't."