Hawai'i tops Nevada in overtime, 73-69
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
Nevada has the best player in the Western Athletic Conference, but for now, the University of Hawai'i has the best team.
The Rainbow Warriors worked overtime to wear down Nevada and Nick Fazekas in a 73-69 victory last night.
A crowd of 6,331 at the Stan Sheriff Center watched the 'Bows improve to 8-4 overall while remaining atop the WAC at 2-0. Nevada, which was picked to win the WAC, dropped to 10-3 and 0-1.
Hawai'i's other conference victory came Dec. 17 against Utah State, which was picked to finish second.
"It's a big win because you're still sitting up there 2-0 for another week," Hawai'i head coach Riley Wallace said.
It was also an exciting win, with the 'Bows prevailing by out-scoring the Wolf Pack 15-11 in overtime. Until then, the lead changed 14 times, and the score was tied 11 different times.
"It was up and down, trying to get control of the game and no one could get control of it," Wallace said. "It was one of those WAC battles that went into overtime and we were the lucky one this time."
Julian Sensley led the 'Bows with 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Matt Lojeski added 12 points and "Big Matt" Gipson 10.
Gipson also blocked a career-high five shots as Hawai'i set a school record with 13 blocked shots.
"Before the game, you could tell we were going to win this ball game just how everybody was," Sensley said. "It looked like how we were preparing for the Michigan State game. Everybody was making huge plays down the stretch."
The 'Bows needed every big play to overcome a career game by Fazekas. The 6-foot-11 forward had the best game of his already-outstanding career with 37 points and 15 rebounds.
"That doesn't make a difference to me," Fazekas said. "I'm here to play to win. I don't care about all the points and rebounds; we just didn't make enough plays to win the game and that's all that matters."
The 'Bows rotated four defenders on Fazekas throughout the game, and it may have paid off in the end. Fazekas did not score in overtime and shot 5 of 14 from the field after halftime.
"We went at Fazekas and played him as hard as we could possibly play him," Wallace said. "I thought in the overtime, he was so tired he could hardly move. He missed a couple shots he normally doesn't miss."
Fazekas finished 11 of 25 from the field and 12 of 13 on free throws. Marcelus Kemp added 18 points, and no other Wolf Pack player scored more than four.
"We didn't get much help the first half," Nevada head coach Mark Fox said. "Nick played very well; I thought he might have run out of gas late. But he's a terrific player. We kept going to him and he kept delivering for us."
Sensley said: "We did a good job of shutting everybody else down. Those guys came down and hit some big shots down the stretch, but other than that, we took everybody else out of their game."
The 'Bows raced to a 66-60 lead early in overtime and then held off a Wolf Pack 3-point barrage in the closing seconds to win it.
Nevada had possession of the ball trailing 71-69, but Kemp was called for a charging foul against Sensley with 7.0 seconds remaining.
"It was a charge all the way," Sensley said. "I would have gone to the referee's association and argued that."
Fox argued vehemently at the time of the call, but said after the game: "Nothing we can do about it now."
The game was tied at 54, 56 and 58 in the final two minutes of regulation. Kemp's two free throws with 42.9 seconds remaining tied it at 58.
Each team missed on a final possession after that, sending the game to overtime.
Hawai'i played the final 16 minutes of the second half and the five minutes of overtime without senior point guard Deonte Tatum. He had nine points and four rebounds before leaving the game with leg cramps early in the second half.
In his place, true freshmen Hiram Thompson and Dominic Waters combined for 11 points and three assists with two turnovers. Waters started the overtime period and hit a clutch jumper as the shot clock was about to expire.
"It was the opportunity I've been waiting for to step up and play my game and help us win," said Waters, who scored a career-high nine points.
The 'Bows led by as many as nine in the first half, but the Wolf Pack rallied behind Fazekas.
He had 21 points, eight rebounds and three assists in the first half. He scored 13 during a 15-5 run that gave Nevada a 28-27 lead. The Wolf Pack eventually took a 34-31 lead at intermission.
The 'Bows scored the first six points of the second half to regain the lead at 37-34, and it stayed close the rest of the way. The team's exchanged the lead eight times after that, and neither team led by more than four in the final 16 minutes of the second half.
Sensley scored 12 of his points in the second half. Five different 'Bows scored in the overtime, led by Lojeski's five.
Hawai'i will next play WAC road games at Louisiana Tech on Jan. 12 and then at New Mexico State on Jan. 14.
MORE WAC GAMES
Louisiana Tech 75, Boise State 72: Paul Millsap hit an off-balance 3-point shot as time expired, lifting the Bulldogs (8-5) over the Broncos (7-5) in the WAC opener for both teams at Boise, Idaho.
With the score tied at 72, Millsap chased down Marcus Elliott's errant shot that caromed off the rim and outside the 3-point line, turned and threw up a desperation shot over Boise State's Tez Banks before falling to the floor as the horn sounded.
Utah State 67, San Jose State 56: Nate Harris hit seven of his first nine shot and scored 24 points and also grabbed nine rebounds, leading the Aggies (9-3, 1-1) over the Spartans (4-10, 0-1) at San Jose, Calif.
Menelik Barbary had his third double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds for San Jose State.
New Mexico State 62, Idaho 52: Sophomore Tyrone Nelson had 17 points and nine rebounds, and the Aggies (5-7) ended the first half with a 17-4 run that put them ahead 28-16 at the break to beat the Vandals (3-8) in the WAC opener for both teams at Moscow, idaho.
Both schools are in their first year as members of the WAC. New Mexico State spent the past six seasons in the Sun Belt Conference, while Idaho had been a member of the Sun Belt in football and the Big West in other sports.
Reach Dayton Morinaga at email@example.com.