'Bows' defense puts squeeze on Boise St.
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
Back at home, back on track.
That's what the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team did over its last two games.
The Rainbow Warriors got back near the top of the Western Athletic Conference with a 72-61 victory over Boise State last night.
"It was very important," Hawai'i head coach Riley Wallace said. "We're tied for second on the loss side."
A crowd of 4,543 at the Stan Sheriff Center watched the 'Bows improve to 10-6 overall and 4-2 in the WAC, with all four wins at home.
Boise State dropped to 9-8 and 2-4. The Broncos are 0-5 all-time in the Stan Sheriff Center.
Senior Julian Sensley led Hawai'i with 17 points, and became the 12th player in UH history to score 1,000 points in a career. He also had eight rebounds and four assists, while playing the full 40 minutes.
"It feels good when ever you establish something like that," said Sensley, who now has 1,009 points over his three seasons at UH. "Of course, I wouldn't have been able to do that without my teammates throughout the years that I've been here, and Coach giving me the opportunity right away to come in and play as many minutes as I do."
Just like in a home victory over Fresno State on Saturday, last night's win featured a balanced offensive attack and tenacious team defense.
Matt Lojeski contributed 16 points and grabbed a career-high nine rebounds. The normally efficient Ahmet Gueye shot 4 of 14 from the field, but still contributed 12 points and six rebounds.
The biggest individual surprise came from the tallest Hawai'i player. Seven-foot reserve center Chris Botez had his best game of the season with 12 points and eight rebounds.
"That first jumper I took, that hook shot, it felt kind of good," said Botez, who shot 6 of 9 from the field. "After that, I had a little jumper in the short corner and I knew I was feeling it, the energy inside me, that I could score down low."
Botez chose Hawai'i over Boise State after a close recruiting battle last summer. He said he was intent on showing the Boise State coaches "that I wasn't the same 7-foot (junior college) kid when they tried recruiting me. I worked on my post moves, my jump shot."
Boise State head coach Greg Graham said: "I thought (Botez) and Ahmet both, their presence inside just hurt us bad. I thought they just worked us to death inside and we didn't have any answers to stop them."
The biggest team surprise came at the free-throw line, where the 'Bows went 17 for 18 (94.4 percent). They entered the game ranked last in the WAC with a 59.6 free-throw percentage, and last night was the first time they shot better than 75 percent in a game.
"The right guys were shooting," Wallace said.
But the 'Bows also did it with a solid defensive effort, this time from its traditional man-to-man scheme. In Saturday's victory over Fresno State, Hawai'i unveiled an effective 1-2-2 zone.
Last night, Hawai'i limited the Broncos to a 34.8 field-goal percentage. On Saturday, Fresno State shot 34.4 percent. Those are the two lowest percentages by Hawai'i opponents this season.
"I thought our post defense was good tonight," Wallace said. "We didn't give them a whole lot of easy stuff until late. Overall, I thought it was a good man defense."
The 'Bows — Lojeski, in particular — were especially effective against Boise State's leading scorer Coby Karl. He finished with 12 points, but went 3 of 14 from the field. Nine of his points came in the final eight minutes, when the 'Bows had already established a double-digit lead.
"Lojeski fools people," Wallace said. "He's becoming a good defender, and I thought he did a good job (on Karl) tonight."
Karl, a 6-4 junior guard, also reached the 1,000-point mark for his career at Boise State.
Eric Lane led the Broncos with 15 points, all on 3-pointers. He was 4 of 5 from 3-point range in the first half, but then went 1 of 4 in the second half.
Graham said: "We didn't shoot the ball well, but I tell you what, they defended well. Their overall size causes problems for everybody."
The 'Bows actually struggled early, then took control in the second half. Boise State led 24-23 at intermission.
Sensley and Gueye each had two points in the first half, and were a combined 2 for 15 from the field.
"Gueye was 1 for 8 and Julian was 1 for 7," Wallace said. "If we hit half of those shots, we're in a good position in the first half, score-wise."
Hawai'i was 10 of 33 from the field (30.3 percent) in the first half, while the Broncos went 8 of 22 (36.4 percent).
The 'Bows had a 29-28 advantage with 16:46 remaining in the second half, then opened it up with a 15-5 run that increased the lead to 44-33 with 11:17 remaining.
Hawai'i pushed the lead up to 50-35 with 8:52 remaining, and was never threatened the rest of the way.
"Everybody just picked it up individually in their confidence," Sensley said.
Sensley scored 15 in the second half, including 13 during a nine-minute stretch when Hawai'i increased its lead from four to 15.
"They were kind of mixing it up with zone and man, so it was kind of hard to figure out my role on the court," Sensley said. "Second half, they went man for a stretch and I was able to take advantage of that."
Wallace said: "Julian in past years, if he went 1 for 7, he'd drop his head ... so he's matured a lot as a player."
Hawai'i's next WAC games are on the road — Saturday at Nevada and next Monday at Utah State. The 'Bows already beat both those teams in Honolulu.
Reach Dayton Morinaga at email@example.com.