UH looks to pounce on visiting Spartans
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
The University of Hawai'i men's basketball team would like another slam-dunk victory tonight when it hosts San Jose State in a Western Athletic Conference game at the Stan Sheriff Center.
The Rainbow Warriors improved to 11-8 overall and 5-4 in the WAC after an 81-61 rout of Idaho on Thursday.
Idaho is the last-place team in the WAC, and San Jose State is next-to-last. The Spartans are 5-15 overall and 1-6 in the conference.
"We can't overlook any team, and we know San Jose can be dangerous," senior co-captain Deonte Tatum said. "But our confidence is always high no matter who we're playing. We just need to focus on performing at a high level."
The 'Bows were flying high in the win over Idaho with a season-high seven dunks.
Senior forward Julian Sensley had six of the dunks, giving him a team-best 23 slams this season.
"Even though it's worth only two points, when you dunk on somebody it motivates your teammates and takes away some motivation from the other team," Sensley said. "When one of us gets a nice dunk, you can just feel the energy in everybody and it shows on both ends of the floor."
Sensley could get more opportunities tonight. At 6 feet 9, he is a match-up nightmare at the small forward position.
San Jose State will start 6-3 Alex Elam at small forward. The 'Bows will start four players 6-6 and taller; the Spartans will start four players 6-6 and shorter.
"We just have to take advantage of our size again," Sensley said. "If I get a smaller guy on me, I have to try and take it to the basket. But it works both ways because a lot of times I have to chase around a smaller guy when we're on defense."
If Sensley does draw Elam, it will be a match-up of the leading scorers for each team. Sensley is averaging 16.7 points per game; Elam is averaging 13.5 points per game.
Tatum, who leads Hawai'i with 3.8 assists per game, said he will be looking for Sensley to attack the rim again tonight.
"I wish everybody would go up and dunk it like that," Tatum said. "But when (Sensley) does it, he brings authority and everybody gets up. You see that swagger come out of him and you want to keep giving him the ball."
The 'Bows have won the past five meetings with San Jose State, including all three games last season. However, the Spartans have a new coach this season in George Nessman.
"I think Hawai'i's size is really going to bother us," he said. "They bother everybody with their size and we have some real poor match-ups because of that."
Sensley, 6-9 forward "Big Matt" Gipson and 6-7 center Ahmet Gueye combined for 38 points on 15-of-22 shooting against Idaho.
"When our big guys are playing like that, it helps the whole team out," Tatum said. "It opens everything up."
Hawai'i coach Riley Wallace said Nessman has brought an unpredictable style to San Jose State.
"They like to push it more and they have some good athletes," Wallace said. "They won't just slow it down and take time off the clock like they did in the past. They use their quickness, so that's a big concern for us."
The Spartans are averaging 64.3 points per game, and they are last in the WAC with a 41.1 field goal percentage.
"We don't score really well even though we're playing fast," Nessman said. "We will try to run on everybody we play."
While Hawai'i is trying to stay in the WAC championship race, the Spartans are trying to take teams out of it.
"We want to make a difference," Nessman said. "We want to beat one of the guys that's in contention."
Four of San Jose State's six losses in the WAC were by seven points or fewer, including a 77-75 loss to Boise State on Wednesday.
"We've lost an unbelievable amount of close games," Nessman said. "That's part of the building process."
FRESHMAN THOMPSON OUT FOR TONIGHT'S GAME
Reserve point guard Hiram Thompson will not be in uniform tonight because he is recovering from a concussion and broken nose.
Thompson was injured during a head-to-head collision with an Idaho player on Thursday.
Wallace said freshman Dominic Waters will likely play an increased role off the bench tonight.
The 'Bows will have only eight scholarship players available for tonight's game.
Reach Dayton Morinaga at firstname.lastname@example.org.