'Bows hope to reverse WAC road-trip woes
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
Now back to the hard part for the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team.
The Rainbow Warriors have been near the leaders of the Western Athletic Conference all season, but the distant travel of road games has kept them at a distance.
The 'Bows once again got back in the WAC race by sweeping Idaho and San Jose State at the Stan Sheriff Center last week.
Hawai'i is 12-8 overall and 6-4 in the conference — one game behind the three teams tied for first place (Louisiana Tech, Nevada and Utah State). Most telling, the 'Bows are 6-0 at home in the WAC, and 0-4 on the road.
"I said at the start of the season, win them all at home, split on the road, and you're going to be there," Hawai'i coach Riley Wallace said. "And it looks like four (losses) could do it, three (losses) might slip in."
Which basically means Hawai'i cannot afford any more road blocks.
The 'Bows' next two games are on the road — at Boise State on Saturday and then at Fresno State on Feb. 13. Hawai'i already beat both those teams in Honolulu.
"I don't know what you could do different," Wallace said. "You got the same game plan, you got the same kids. It's an energy thing they have to do."
After winning their last two games by a combined 35 points, the 'Bows may have found that much-needed energy.
"I know we sound like a broken record saying this every time we go on the road, but I think we're going to run the table this time," senior co-captain Julian Sensley said. "I think everybody's motivated, and everybody's excited to go on the road and try and get some wins."
Sensley, a 6-foot-9 forward, played a key role in Hawai'i's two victories last week. He scored 47 points in the two games, connecting on 19 of 29 shots. He also grabbed 16 rebounds, passed for eight assists, and blocked four shots.
"Julian's playing good basketball," Wallace said. "He's taking what they give him. He's cutting to the basket, he went to the boards."
Perhaps the most surprising statistic that the 'Bows want to take with them on the road is free-throw shooting.
They went 19 of 20 (95 percent) from the line against San Jose State. Hawai'i entered the game ranked last in the WAC with a 62.5 free-throw percentage.
Hawai'i is still last in the WAC, but its percentage at the line is now 64.1 (Louisiana Tech is next-to-last at 64.3).
"Free throws is huge because for some of our losses, that was a big part of it," Sensley said. "So if we just carry this confidence on the road, in a tight ball game we'll be able to knock down some free throws down the stretch."
In any case, Hawai'i has seven regular-season games remaining, including four WAC road games. Wallace said associate coach Bob Nash has been reminding the 'Bows of the stretch run with a "countdown" of remaining games.
"We're down to (seven) and counting," Wallace said. "If you take care of business, you're going to be in the hunt."
Freshman point guard Hiram Thompson was not in uniform against San Jose State because he is recovering from a concussion. Wallace said he expects Thompson to travel with the team, although his status for the games must still be determined.
Reach Dayton Morinaga at email@example.com.