Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 25, 2003

'Bows' season comes to end in Minnesota

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

MINNEAPOLIS — The dream trip to New York ran out of fuel in Minnesota.

Hawai'i's Tony Akpan beats Minnesota's Michael Bauer to a loose ball in the first half of their NIT game. Minnesota held a 39-22 rebounding advantage, with Bauer pulling down a team-high eight.

Associated Press

As a result, the Hawai'i men's basketball team completed its season with an 84-70 loss to Minnesota in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.

A crowd of 4,311 at Williams Arena watched the Rainbow Warriors complete their season with a 19-12 record. The Golden Gophers improved to 18-12 and advanced to the quarterfinals against an opponent yet to be determined.

The NIT final four will be played in New York, and the 'Bows have been proclaiming that as their destinated goal for the past two weeks.

"That was our dream," UH junior forward Phil Martin said. "Some dreams aren't meant to be."

In what has been a recurring nightmare for the 'Bows — especially on the road — they appeared to be in control of the game early, only to lose it at the end.

"They turned it up a notch and we didn't have the gas to answer back," UH junior guard Carl English said.

Despite four players in double-figure points — Michael Kuebler (20), English (19), Martin (13) and Nkeruwem "Tony" Akpan (12) — the 'Bows ultimately could not match Minnesota's size and strength.

Hawai'i led by as many as nine points early in the second half before fading down the stretch against a variety of aggressive Minnesota defenses.

"I think they wore us down," UH head coach Riley Wallace said. "We've been on the road for two weeks straight, minus the 21 hours we got to spend at home (in Honolulu) in between. It's not an excuse, but they are kids and they do get tired."

At the beginning, you could hardly tell.

The 'Bows put on a shooting clinic early, led by Kuebler. He made his first four 3-point shots of the game, helping Hawai'i to a 26-20 lead.

"We saw how they shot lights out against UNLV (last week) so we knew what they could do," Minnesota guard Maurice Hargrow said. "But, man, we didn't expect them to come out smoking like that. I wasn't sure if Kuebler was going to miss. Everything he put up was all net."

Minnesota's Kevin Burleson, bottom, and Michael Bauer, back, battle Hawai'i's Tony Akpan, middle, and Phil Martin for a rebound in the first half of their second-round NIT game.

Associated Press

Kuebler finished the first half with 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting from 3-point range. English added nine in the first half on 4-of-5 shooting, including a scooping layup just before the halftime buzzer that put Hawai'i ahead, 40-36.

The 'Bows never trailed in the first half, but as Kuebler put it: "We knew it wasn't going to be that easy the entire game."

The telling statistic at halftime wasn't so much Hawai'i's 70 percent 3-point shooting (7-of-10) as it was the 24-11 rebounding advantage for Minnesota.

"I think the key was their offensive rebounding," English said. "They got a lot of extra putbacks and that's what kept them around in the first half."

Kuebler's sixth 3-pointer of the game put Hawai'i ahead, 50-41, with 17:18 remaining in the game. At that stage, the 'Bows were an astonishing 9-of-12 (75 percent) from 3-point range.

But as Hargrow put it: "It was our fault, too. We were giving them the open looks. We knew once we started guarding them a little better, they couldn't keep shooting it like that."

It would be Kuebler's last basket of the game, and the 'Bows went 1-of-8 (12.5 percent) from 3-point range the rest of the way.

Once Hawai'i's long-range shots started falling short, the Gophers took over.

An 11-2 Minnesota run tied the score at 52 with 13:34 remaining. Jerry Holman, the Gophers' 6-foot-10 center, scored seven of his 14 points during the surge.

"I don't know if I was waiting for Jerry to do it; I was waiting for someone to pass it in there," Minnesota head coach Dan Monson said. "We felt like (Hawai'i) was a team we had to attack inside."

Hawai'i seemed to be ready for it after Akpan's follow-up dunk off a miss by Martin put the 'Bows back ahead 56-54 with 11:21 remaining.

But Minnesota responded with a 13-0 run to take control of the game for good at 67-56 with 7:05 remaining. During that surge, the Gophers employed several different defenses, including a full-court press that seemed to confuse Hawai'i.

"We didn't handle the press and got a little panicky," Wallace said. "We haven't really had a lot of problems with presses this year, but for some reason ... (Minnesota) had big bodies out there and we're not used to that."

Hargrow scored eight points during the run, including back-to-back 3-pointers that energized the crowd and seemed to deflate the 'Bows. He finished with a game-high 22 points to lead four Gophers in double figures.

"It seems like stuff like that happens to us every game," Kuebler said of Minnesota's 13-0 surge. "It just all depends on when we can cut it off. We just weren't able to stop it quick enough this game."

Hawai'i never got closer than eight points in the final seven minutes. The Gophers made 13 of 14 free throws in the final six minutes to secure the victory.

"I just don't think we had the legs," English said. "The road takes a toll on you after a while."

Overall, Minnesota was 21 of 27 on free throws, while Hawai'i was 8 of 11. In the decisive second half, the Gophers shot 23 free throws to UH's two.

"I don't want to say it was the refs, but there were some calls I expected the refs to give us," said Akpan, who fouled out with 3:33 remaining in the game.

Rick Rickert, Minnesota's all-conference forward, finished with 16 points and five rebounds, although he shot just 4-of-11 from the field. The surprise of the night for Minnesota — at least according to the Hawai'i players — was Ben Johnson, a 6-3 guard who came off the bench to score 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting.

"He hit some shots that we didn't think he was capable of hitting," English said.

The Gophers finished with a 39-22 advantage in rebounding, led by Michael Bauer's eight.

"They really turned it up, really played aggressive in the second half," Wallace said. "And they just annihilated us on the boards."

Fittingly with a roller-coaster of a game, a roller-coaster of a season ended for Hawai'i. "There were too many ups and downs," English said.

Still, only six other teams in UH history have had more than 19 victories in a season.

"You guys (in the media) might not consider this a successful season, but I do," Wallace said.

• • •

Minnesota's Kevin Burleson, bottom, and Michael Bauer, back, battle Hawai'i's Tony Akpan, middle, and Phil Martin for a rebound in the first half of their second-round NIT game.

Associated Press