Gophers got victory on rebound
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
MINNEAPOLIS There's a reason why this place is called Big Ten country.
Proof that size matters, Minnesota beat the Hawai'i men's basketball team, 84-70, last night at Williams Arena.
"That's the biggest team I've ever played against," said UH junior Michael Kuebler, who scored a team-high 20 points. "Both in the way they played and the actual height of their guys. The whole team it seemed like consistently had that height."
It showed in a 39-22 rebounding advantage for the Golden Gophers. It was Hawai'i's lowest rebounding total of the season, and the largest rebounding deficit this season.
Most telling, Minnesota grabbed 18 offensive rebounds, and recycled that into 36 "second chance" points.
"The discrepancy on the boards," was the difference in the game, UH head coach Riley Wallace said. "We play three guards who can shoot it, but don't jump. It's hard for them to battle the big guys down there."
Much of the pregame hype focused on the mismatched heights between the teams.
Minnesota started a frontline of 6-foot-10 Jerry Holman, 6-11 Rick Rickert and 6-8 Michael Bauer. Hawai'i countered with 6-8 Nkeruwem "Tony" Akpan and 6-8 Phil Martin in the post, with guards Mark Campbell, Carl English and Michael Kuebler on the perimeter.
Minnesota head coach Dan Monson said: "Somebody's going to win that match-up thing."
Early on, it was Hawai'i. The 'Bows shot 7-of-10 from 3-point range in the first half, and most of them were wide open shots. As a result, they led, 40-36, at halftime.
In that first half, Minnesota's big trio combined for 13 points, including 1-of-7 shooting from 3-point range.
"We felt like (Hawai'i) was a team we had to attack inside," Monson said. "Yet two of our posts had taken (seven) 3s."
That strategy changed in the second half, and so did the momentum. Holman scored seven points during an 11-2 run that tied the game at 52.
"We just came out a little more focused and stuck to our game plan," said Holman, who finished with 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting. "For myself, a couple of jump shots just started falling."
The Minnesota trio finished with 35 points, 17 rebounds and four blocked shots.
"They were doing it right, going into the post," Wallace said. "(Monson) played it right by pushing us."
No Hawai'i player grabbed more than five rebounds.
"Throughout the season, I played against bigger guys," Akpan said. "They had size, but we had quickness and I think we were stronger, too."
Instead, Akpan offered an interesting theory on the rebounding margin.
"When you're on the road, you play with different rims," he said. "What we didn't expect was how far the rebounds would go. Even when I boxed out (and had position), the ball doesn't come right down, it goes far out."
English final? UH junior Carl English remained quiet after last night's game when asked if it was his last in a Hawai'i uniform.
He has said before that his tentative plan is to declare for early entry into the NBA Draft, but without an agent. That would allow him to return to UH for his senior season should it appear that he might not get drafted.
Record season: With three 3-pointers last night, English established a UH single-season record with 89. The previous record of 86 was set by Trevor Ruffin in 1993-94.
English also has 162 3-pointers in his career at UH. That is 16 short of the UH career record established by former teammate Predrag Savovic.
English finished this season with a scoring average of 19.6 points per game. Only six players in UH history have averaged more than 20 points per game during a season.
Coming home: The 'Bows are scheduled to return to Honolulu today on Northwest flight 928 from Los Angeles. Expected arrival time in 4:34 p.m.