Gueye might sit tonight
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
The University of Hawai'i men's basketball team is on a winter break from classes, but the tests are not over.
With the possibility that their big man might not play, the Rainbow Warriors could be in for a big test tonight when they host Tennessee-Martin in a non-conference game.
Ahmet Gueye, Hawai'i's starting center and a team co-captain, is doubtful for tonight's game because of his injured right knee. The 6-foot-8 senior is averaging 11.8 points and a team-high 7.6 rebounds per game.
Gueye did not practice yesterday, but he did watch scouting films on the Skyhawks.
"They're an explosive team," he said. "They actually have a lot of similarities to our team. We just have to play with confidence and play our game."
Hawai'i head coach Riley Wallace said Gueye's status will be a game-time decision.
"We'll do what we have to do," if Gueye is unavailable, Wallace said.
The 'Bows are 8-4 and on a four-game winning streak. The Skyhawks are 3-10 and on a three-game losing streak.
"It would be easy for us to overlook a team like this because of their record, and because they're not a big-name team," Hawai'i point guard Matt Gibson said. "But we can't just go through the motions. This is Division I basketball, so any team can come out on any night and hit shots and beat any other team."
If Gueye is unavailable, the 'Bows have several other "big men" available. Stephen Verwers, a 6-11 junior, and Todd Follmer, a 7-foot sophomore, would likely see increased playing time in Gueye's absence.
Verwers lost his starting spot earlier this season, but played a solid reserve role in last week's Rainbow Classic.
But the 'Bows could also go small by moving 6-6 Bobby Nash to power forward and 6-8 P.J. Owsley to center.
"You miss that big body down low if Ahmet's not in there," Nash said. "But whoever is in there has to try and fill the void in any way possible."
In an 89-78 victory over Northwestern State on Dec. 16, Nash had 22 points and 11 rebounds while playing most of the game at power forward.
"If I have to play down low, that means a big guy (on the opposing team) has to chase me around, too, and I don't know of too many big guys who like to run around that much," Nash said.
When the 'Bows do go with a smaller lineup, they essentially have four shooters on the court at once. Against Northwestern State, for example, the lineup for most of the game was Gibson at point guard, Matt Lojeski at shooting guard, Riley Luettgerodt at small forward, Nash at small forward, and Gueye at center.
"This is going to be a good test for our character," Nash said. "If Ahmet can't go, other guys have to step up."
Of course, the best scenario for Hawai'i would feature Gueye in the lineup.
However, the knee has been causing him problems all season. He underwent surgery on his knee in March, and his practice time has been limited in recent weeks in an effort to rest it.
Whether Gueye plays or not, the Skyhawks could cause problems for the 'Bows.
"They have decent size inside, and they have good athletes at every spot," Wallace said. "They have that quickness, so that makes them dangerous."
UTM relies on a balanced attack, led by 6-9 junior Gerald Robinson, who is averaging 12.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. UTM head coach Bret Campbell pointed to the Skyhawks' 18.1 turnovers per game as one of the reasons for their inconsistency.
"Our goal (tonight) is to just come in here and try and be in the game the last five minutes," Campbell said. "I don't know if we can come in here and win or not, but we want to be competitive."
Reach Dayton Morinaga at email@example.com.