Rainbow Warriors shoot down Vandals
|UH vs. Idaho photo gallery|
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
Back in the warm comforts of home, the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team heated up last night.
The Rainbow Warriors had their best shooting night of the season in an 81-61 victory over Idaho.
A crowd of 4,213 at the Stan Sheriff Center watched the 'Bows snap a two-game losing streak to improve to 11-8 overall and 5-4 in the Western Athletic Conference.
The Vandals dropped to 3-16 overall and 0-8 in the WAC. They have lost their last 10 games.
"It was a perfect game for us," Hawai'i head coach Riley Wallace said. "This is exactly what we needed."
The 'Bows shot a season-high 63.3 percent from the field (31 of 49), including 62.5 percent from 3-point range (10 of 16). In its previous two losses on the road, Hawai'i shot 38.2 percent from the field.
"It's a good bounce back for us coming off those two losses," senior co-captain Julian Sensley said. "Coming off two losses like that, it feels good to come in and beat a team by 20."
Sensley led the way with one of his best all-around games of the season. The 6-foot-9 forward scored 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting, including six dunks. He also led the team with seven rebounds, five assists and three steals.
"I just took what was there for me, really," he said. "A lot of times, I had a slower guy on me and I was able to go around him. It just came from moving the ball well."
Wallace said: "Julian, I thought played a good inside-outside game tonight. He was able to get at the basket, and that gives him confidence, and then he hits his jump shots."
Three other 'Bows scored in double-figures, including career-highs from Matt Lojeski and freshman Dominic Waters.
Lojeski scored 21 points, including 5-of-6 shooting from 3-point range. In the two road losses, Lojeski went 1 for 10 from 3-point range.
"It hasn't been going my way, so it felt good to come out and start knocking down some shots and get on a roll from the beginning," he said. "We were due for a game like this."
Waters and Ahmet Gueye each scored 11 points and reserve guard John Wilder also achieved a career-high with seven points.
"Everybody got touches, everybody was able to get good looks at the basket," Sensley said.
Hawai'i took control of the game midway through the first half and was never threatened in the second half.
The shorter Vandals actually caused problems for the 'Bows early in the game. Idaho opened with an 11-7 lead before Hawai'i took over with its precise shooting.
A 17-4 surge late in the first half gave the 'Bows a 40-27 lead. Lojeski, Waters and Wilder each hit a 3-pointer during the run.
"We came out and it was a little messy, sloppy, in the beginning," Lojeski said. "Then all of a sudden we started hitting shots. We were hitting shot after shot and it felt good because on the road we were shooting pretty bad."
The 'Bows eventually took a 42-29 lead at intermission, shooting 76.2 percent from the field (16 of 21).
Lojeski led the way with 13 points in the first half on 5-of-5 shooting, including 3 of 3 from 3-point range.
"Lojeski made some tough ones," Idaho head coach Leonard Perry said. "But we missed a couple of assignments."
Hawai'i opened the second half with a 13-2 run to increase its lead to 55-31 with 13:51 remaining. The Vandals never got closer than 18 the rest of the way.
"I thought we competed on the glass," Perry said. "But we couldn't score. Part of it is (Hawai'i's) length."
Sensley scored 13 points in the second half, including several drives to the basket.
"Second half, when (Idaho) went man-to-man, we ran everything to Julian," Wallace said. "That's why he got all those dunks."
Perry said: "Sensley, at 6-9, we can't match up with him in a zone or man (defense)."
The Vandals did not have any player taller than 6-8 on their roster, and 6-3 Brett Ledbetter had to defend Sensley for most of the game.
The 'Bows out-rebounded the Vandals, 31-26, and scored 30 "points in the paint" to Idaho's 26.
"We just took advantage of our size, which is something we need to continue to do," Sensley said.
Tanoris Shepard led Idaho with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Keoni Watson, a 5-10 guard, added 13 points and six rebounds.
The Vandals shot 40.7 percent from the field (22 of 54), including just 20 percent from 3-point range (3 of 15).
All 10 players in uniform saw action for Hawai'i, and Wallace said that was a key because the 'Bows were playing their third game in six days in three different states (they lost at Nevada on Saturday, then at Utah State on Monday before returning to Honolulu on Tuesday).
"It was important for everybody to get some time in there tonight because the fatigue factor was there," Wallace said.
However, it was not all good news for the 'Bows.
Freshman point guard Hiram Thompson had to be helped off the court with 11:29 remaining in the second half after a head-to-head collision with an Idaho player.
He was diagnosed with a Grade-2 concussion, and will not be able to play or practice for at least one week.
Hawai'i will host another WAC game tomorrow against San Jose State. The Spartans are 5-15 overall and 1-6 in the WAC.
"San Jose is a better ball club," Wallace said. "They played much more competitive in the league. We'll have a tougher game (tomorrow) than we did tonight."
Reach Dayton Morinaga at firstname.lastname@example.org.