'Bows roll past Bulldogs
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
The University of Hawai'i men's basketball team found its comfort zone at home again, and unveiled a surprising defensive zone in a 73-65 victory over Fresno State last night.
A crowd of 7,100 at the Stan Sheriff Center watched the Rainbow Warriors improve to 9-6 overall and 3-2 in the Western Athletic Conference, with all three WAC wins coming at home. The 'Bows had lost their previous two games on the road.
The Bulldogs dropped to 9-7 and 2-3.
"Overall, a great team effort," Hawai'i head coach Riley Wallace said.
The statistics backed his statement.
Julian Sensley had 21 points, six assists and six rebounds to lead Hawai'i. Matt Lojeski added 20 points and seven rebounds, Ahmet Gueye contributed 16 points and eight rebounds, and Deonte Tatum had 10 points and five assists.
The 'Bows passed for 21 assists, and shot 60.7 percent (17 for 28) from the field in the decisive second half.
"When you see 21 assists, we're playing as a team," Wallace said. "They're all looking for each other, making their cuts and hitting shots."
The 'Bows withstood a barrage of 3-pointers from the Bulldogs, and took control with a 15-0 run midway through the second half.
Fresno State made 13 3-pointers, and set a WAC record with 37 3-point attempts. It was also the most 3-pointers ever taken by a Hawai'i opponent.
"Some of them, they were shooting from beyond the NBA 3-point line and we were contesting those shots," Sensley said. "When they shoot from way out there, we'll let them take those."
The Bulldogs made four 3-pointers in the first six minutes of the game to jump to an 18-9 lead.
After that, the 'Bows made a surprising switch into a zone defense. Sensley played a key role at the top of the 1-2-2 zone.
"When you're down 18-9, that's not a catch-up defense to go to," said Wallace, who has relied on a man-to-man defense throughout his 19 seasons at Hawai'i. "In my opinion, the way I teach, that's kind of a give-up defense because you're saying we can't play man-to-man. But we went to the 1-2-2 (zone), and the matchups were perfect."
The 'Bows recycled the defensive energy into offensive baskets and went on a 13-3 run to take a 22-21 lead with 7:31 remaining in the half. The score was tied 33-33 at halftime.
"My first three years here, that's the first time we played zone for more than a possession," Sensley said. "So I don't think they were prepared for that."
The 'Bows stayed with the zone in the second half, and the Bulldogs were content to launch from long-range.
"It was surprising," Lojeski said. "Some of those shots were ridiculous."
And as Wallace noted: "We took away their penetration so they didn't get to the foul line."
The Bulldogs went 8 of 12 on free throws to Hawai'i's 8 of 13.
Fresno State took its last lead at 43-40 on a 3-pointer by Hector Hernandez with 16:04 remaining.
Hawai'i then went on a 15-0 run to take control at 55-43 with 12:01 remaining. Gueye (six points) and Sensley (five) spurred the run.
"What helped us with our offense was our defense," Sensley said.
Hawai'i never lost the lead the rest of the way, although the Bulldogs got as close as four in the final minute.
"Down the stretch, we got the fast break going and we didn't play scared," Wallace said.
Fresno State shot 10 of 36 from the field in the second half (27.8 percent), including 7 of 21 from 3-point range (33 percent).
"It wasn't that we didn't give an effort, it wasn't energy," Fresno State head coach Steve Cleveland said. "I think our legs looked a little soft and consequently impacted the fact that we couldn't hit the 3."
The Bulldogs played without starting guard Dwight O'Neil, who was suspended last week for academic reasons. They went primarily with their starting five the entire game, and got four points from their bench players.
"We certainly didn't shoot the ball very well in the second half," Cleveland said. "That could have been legs. You can look at that and say a little bit of fatigue factor — not getting the kind of shots we needed to get."
Ja'Vance Coleman went 4 of 13 from 3-point range and scored 18 points for the Bulldogs. Quinton Hosley added 18 points and a game-high 16 rebounds, but he shot just 7 of 20 from the field.
The shorter Bulldogs out-rebounded the 'Bows, 37-36, but Hawai'i out-scored Fresno State 34-10 on "points in the paint."
Fresno State used nine players last night, and Hawai'i used only seven. The 'Bows did not get any scoring off their bench although Chris Botez had seven rebounds and Hiram Thompson contributed five assists.
Lojeski played all 40 minutes for Hawai'i, and his 20 points tied his career-high.
"Lojeski is the key," Wallace said. "Julian is playing consistent. He's got his head on right and really going after it. But that (Lojeski's shooting guard) position in all of our stuff is a key position."
The 'Bows will host another WAC game tomorrow against Boise State. Fresno State will return to California to host New Mexico State Thursday.
Reach Dayton Morinaga at firstname.lastname@example.org.