By Ferd Lewis
For once, University of Hawai'i men's basketball coach Riley Wallace really didn't have to say anything the numbers on the statistic sheet he waved in the faces of his guards at halftime last night screamed the blunt message for him:
One-for-10 shooting (0 of 4 from 3-point range), six turnovers by the Rainbow Warriors' guards and 19 points by Donovan Morris, who they were supposed to be guarding.
Not that this sufficed for Wallace, of course. "I told them, 'look here, you did nuthin' ... nuthin' at all.' "
The 'Bows' guards got the point and then quickly made plenty of their own in a second half show that allowed UH to break a five-game losing streak with a 66-59 victory over Fresno State.
It took a while but in their final game of the regular season, the 'Bows found their roles and executed them to bring to an end, for at least this night, the deep funk they had endured since Feb. 16, the last time they had won a game
What's more remarkable, not only did they not let the game get away from them in the final minutes of prime time, they made the shots and the plays to put it securely away.
Whether this new-found focus and confidence carries over to the Western Athletic Conference Tournament in Reno, Nev., Tuesday where UH (15-12) plays San Jose State, remains to be seen. But for one night, Senior Night, in front of an appreciative 6,222, the 'Bows put the pieces together in the second half where they took apart the Bulldogs, 40-26.
"Coach let us know it was up to us (the guards)," Matt Gibson said. "He challenged us right there in the locker room to do our jobs," Jake Sottos said.
Indeed, everybody else was holding up their end and doing it well. Julian Sensley held Ja'Vance Coleman, the Bulldogs' leading scorer, to five first-half points and center Chris Botez was a force to be reckoned with inside while Jeff Blackett shouldered the scoring load.
Yet, the 'Bows trailed 33-26 and nobody in that locker room or in the Stan Sheriff Center had any doubts where this game hinged.
For the last half of the last home game, the last chance to build any momentum into the WAC Tournament was in the guards' hands. Not a comforting thought based upon the dismal first half.
"It was up to us," Gibson said. "And we didn't want to let the rest of the guys down. They were doing what they had to. It was our turn to finally step up and make things happen."
And, it wasn't long in coming, either. Sottos and Gibson combined for UH's first 12 points of the second half. Overall, the guards, paced by Gibson's 24 second-half points, had 32 of UH's 40 second-half points. And, Gibson had only one second-half turnover.
Led by Sottos, they combined to hold Morris to one basket in the final 20 minutes, ending a 14-of-18 rampage over two games.
In the end, neither Sottos, the lei piled high around his neck, or Gibson had to say they had done their jobs. Their smiles said it all.
Reach Ferd Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 525-8044.