'Bows can't dial long distance in 73-67 loss
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
FRESNO, Calif. — A license to stay on the road to victory expired yesterday for the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team.
The Rainbow Warriors returned to their frustrating ways on the road in a 73-67 loss to Fresno State last night.
A crowd of around 6,000 at the Save Mart Center watched the 'Bows drop to 13-9 overall and 7-5 in the Western Athletic Conference. The Bulldogs improved to 13-10 and 6-6 by avenging a loss at Hawai'i last month.
"We came in here focused and ready to win, but we just broke down in our game plan in the middle stretches there and let them get away," Hawai'i head coach Riley Wallace said.
The 'Bows out-played the Bulldogs in many phases of the game, but Fresno State dominated one area — 3-point shooting.
The Bulldogs out-scored Hawai'i 24-3 from the 3-point line. Fresno State went 8 for 25 from long range, while Hawai'i shot 1 for 12.
Junior guard Matt Lojeski led Hawai'i with 20 points, and he made the team's only 3-pointer, going 1 of 5 from long range. He said the difference was "perimeter defense; allowing them to get too many good looks."
Still, Hawai'i was within striking distance until the end. The 'Bows cut a 14-point second-half deficit down to 71-67 with 1:17 remaining.
Hawai'i had possession of the ball with less than 30 seconds remaining, but Lojeski missed a 3-pointer and Fresno State's Quinton Hosley then made two free throws to seal the game.
"We didn't make our run early enough," Lojeski said. "And when we did make our run, we just didn't have enough left and we ran out of time."
Lojeski shot 8 of 12 from the field, leading Hawai'i to a 49.1 field-goal percentage. The Bulldogs shot 42.9 percent from the field.
"We got what we wanted off our offense, we got the shots we wanted," Wallace said. "But a couple times, the (shot clock) was going down and we forced some 3s."
Julian Sensley added 16 points — including four ferocious dunks — and eight rebounds. Deonte Tatum contributed 11 points and five assists, and Ahmet Gueye had nine points, eight rebounds, five assists and five blocked shots.
"I didn't think we played that bad," Lojeski said. "We worked our butts off to get back in the game. We just couldn't fight all the way back."
A key stretch came late in the first half, after a dunk by Sensley tied the score at 30 with 2:43 remaining in the half.
The Bulldogs responded with an 8-0 surge to take a 38-30 lead at intermission. Five of those points came in the final 36 seconds, including a steal and breakaway dunk by Dwight O'Neil just before the horn sounded.
Wallace argued with the referees that O'Neil fouled Sensley on the steal.
"It was a bad call," Wallace said. "It was a four-point turnaround. Instead of us possibly being down four, it was eight."
Prior to the Fresno State run, the lead changed six times in the first half.
However, the 'Bows played the final 10 minutes of the half without starters Lojeski and Matthew Gipson because they both picked up two fouls.
"You had two freshmen (Hiram Thompson and Dominic Waters) in there together and we weren't able to rest some of the other guys and I think it caught up to us in the second half," Wallace said. "I think we lost a little bit of control of the game right there at the end (of the first half)."
Fresno State opened the second half with a 7-2 run to increase its lead to 45-32 with 17:48 remaining.
After that, the 'Bows went into a 1-2-2 zone, with the 6-foot-9 Sensley at the top of the zone. Hawai'i also used that zone in a 73-65 victory over Fresno State on Jan. 21.
"Their zone gives us a lot of problems," Fresno State head coach Steve Cleveland said. "Hawai'i is so big and long, it's hard to get into the seams against them."
Hawai'i trailed 61-47 with 11:13 remaining, and then slowly chipped away at the lead.
"We got it down to striking distance, but we didn't come up with a few loose balls that we needed," Tatum said. "I think the switch to zone was good. It helped us."
But the Bulldogs maintained the lead behind their high-flying tandem of Hosley and Ja'Vance Coleman. Hosely finished with a game-high 25 points and eight rebounds; Coleman went 4 of 8 from 3-point range and scored 18.
However, Wallace and Cleveland said the most significant contribution for Fresno State may have been O'Neil's 11 points. He did not play in the game at Hawai'i because of academic issues.
"He was the X-factor," Wallace said.
Cleveland added: "Dwight hit a couple of big shots and I thought he did a nice job defensively on Sensley, even though Sensley got his points."
On Saturday, Hawai'i got its first road victory of the season at Boise State.
"At least we got one," Tatum said. "We didn't have one all year. And we played hard here in this game, so we definitely have something to build on."
Reach Dayton Morinaga at firstname.lastname@example.org.