'Bows try to tune out distractions in Idaho
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
MOSCOW, Idaho — A jazz festival has taken over the city this week, but the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team is hoping to play its own victory tune today.
The Rainbow Warriors will play a Western Athletic Conference game against Idaho at 5 p.m. (Hawai'i time). Hawai'i is 14-9 overall and 7-5 in the WAC. The 'Bows need a victory to tie New Mexico State for fourth place in the conference.
The Vandals have struggled in their first year in the WAC, and are 4-20 overall and 1-11 in the conference.
"We can't look past anybody in this league," Hawai'i head coach Riley Wallace said. "But this is one we really need to win. For our RPI, for our record, for our momentum at the end of the year, we need it."
Because of the jazz festival, today's game will be played at the tiny Memorial Gym instead of Idaho's normal home gym, Cowan Spectrum. Memorial Gym has a capacity of 1,500, and all the seats are wooden bleachers.
"It reminds me of a high school or (junior college) gym," Hawai'i guard Matt Lojeski said. "You're not used to something like this at this level, but it doesn't make a difference. Every gym is different when you play on the road."
On Monday night, the 'Bows had to cancel an evening practice at Memorial because the heat wasn't turned on.
"It was 30 degrees outside and it felt like it inside," Wallace said. "But we got back at it (yesterday) so we're fine."
Idaho head coach Leonard Perry said the Vandals rarely practice in Memorial Gym, but he understands the circumstances.
"This jazz festival has been around for 30 years, and it brings in money for the school," Perry said. "So if we have to play one game a year outside of our normal gym because of that, it's not a big thing. The baskets are still the same height and the length of the floor is the same."
The problem for Idaho will be the height of the 'Bows. The Vandals do not have a player taller than 6 feet 8 on their roster. Hawai'i will start four players 6-6 and taller: 6-6 Lojeski, 6-7 Ahmet Gueye, 6-9 Julian Sensley and 6-9 Matthew Gipson.
In Hawai'i's 81-61 victory over Idaho at the Stan Sheriff Center on Feb. 2, Hawai'i got seven dunks and dominated the low post. Sensley led the way with 22 points and seven rebounds.
"Our bigs have to play big again," Wallace said. "That's what won it for us back home."
Perry said: "There's nothing we can do about their size. But what we can do is put in a better effort on our part. We feel like that game at Hawai'i really got away from us and we left with a feeling of embarrassment."
Yesterday, Hawai'i returned to its recent road routine of practicing in the morning and then conducting a "shootaround" at night. It was the same two-a-day schedule that led to a road victory at Boise State two weeks ago. The 'Bows are now 1-7 on the road this season.
"We seem to have more energy in the morning," Wallace said. "But we still get to come back at night and get a feel for the rims and the lights and stuff."
The 'Bows arrived in Moscow late Sunday evening and got to rest Monday night because of the cold gym. The Vandals lost a home game to Nevada Monday night, 74-68, at Cowan Spectrum.
"We know what they're capable of," Wallace said. "They played pretty well against Nevada, and they already beat Fresno here, so we'll have to be on top of our game."
What's more, today is Idaho's final home game of the season, so Tanoris Shepard — the lone senior on the team — will be honored. He leads the team with 15.8 points per game.
Reach Dayton Morinaga at email@example.com.