UH has a little momentum leading to Rainbow Classic
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
The University of Hawai'i men's basketball team is in a festive mood again, and it comes at a perfect time.
The Rainbow Warriors won a "must-win" game against Northwestern State, 89-78, on Saturday.
Now, they can focus on Rainbow Classic week.
"If you lose (to Northwestern State), you got three in a row and you're going to have a hard time getting your team up to play in a tough, balanced Rainbow Classic," Hawai'i head coach Riley Wallace said. "So how much did we need it? A lot."
Hawai'i, which is 5-4, will open the eight-team tournament on Wednesday against San Francisco. The 'Bows will play three games in four days in the 43rd annual Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic.
The 'Bows would like to take the momentum gained from Saturday's victory into the Classic.
The 89 points were the most scored by a Hawai'i team since the 2003-04 season.
Three 'Bows — wing players Matt Lojeski, Bobby Nash and Riley Luettgerodt — established career-high point totals on Saturday.
Lojeski scored 25 to improve his team-leading average to 16.4 points per game this season. Luettgerodt, who is in his first season at Hawai'i, scored 13 off the bench.
But Nash took most of the spotlight, recording the first double-double of his Hawai'i career with 22 points and 11 rebounds.
"He had a complete game for us," Wallace said. "He was the lock in there for us."
In the second half of Saturday's game, Wallace turned to Bob Nash — UH's associate coach and Bobby's father — and said: "That's the look I thought we were going to have all along. When you have Bobby hitting those shots, and Lojeski hitting those shots, then you have that inside-outside game."
Prior to Saturday's game, Wallace changed his starting lineup in an effort to boost the offense. P.J. Owsley, a 6-foot-8 forward, made the first start of his Hawai'i career, but ended the game with zero points in 11 minutes.
Instead, the 'Bows went with a smaller lineup for most of the game to match the Demons.
Nash, a 6-6 junior, was the key. He played power forward for most of the game instead of his usual small forward spot.
Nash was a low-post player at 'Iolani School, so he said he is familiar with the power forward position.
"It's not that big of a transition," he said. "Definitely there's bigger guys, so you have to use your quickness and smarts to get around them."
Interestingly enough, senior forward Ahmet Gueye contributed to the scheme by missing practices last week. Following the advice of doctors, Gueye is resting his injured right knee every third day of practice.
On the days when Gueye did not practice, Nash got extended practice time in the low post.
In any case, Wallace said the 'Bows still need to cut down their turnovers. They committed 16 on Saturday, and are averaging 17.8 per game.
"We need to get it down to around 12," Wallace said. "When you get things going, (Western Athletic Conference) time and Rainbow Classic time, you have to cut the turnovers down."
Reach Dayton Morinaga at email@example.com.