UH seeks road win in WAC's toughest town
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
RENO, Nev. — If attitude could beat altitude, the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team would be fine.
"This might be the first team I've had that doesn't complain and get sluggish," Hawai'i head coach Riley Wallace said. "They all come to work hard."
Sure enough, the Rainbow Warriors went through a spirited practice last night at the Lawlor Events Center in preparation for today's game against Nevada.
But the odds are still against Hawai'i.
The 'Bows are in search of their first road victory of the season today in the toughest place to win in the Western Athletic Conference.
"It's not just hard for us, it's hard for everybody to win here," Wallace said. "First of all, (Nevada) always has talented teams. But then you have the altitude and some of the distractions of the city, that's a great advantage."
The 'Bows are 10-6 overall and 4-2 in the WAC. They are 0-4 on the road this season and 0-8 all-time against Nevada in Reno. The Wolf Pack is 14-5 overall, including 8-1 at home, and 4-3 in the WAC.
Reno is 4,400 feet above sea level, so Wallace wanted his players to get accustomed to the thin air last night.
"You definitely feel it; I felt short of breath after only a couple times up and down (the court)," junior guard Matt Lojeski said. "But this practice was good for us to feel what it's like. It wasn't that bad at the end of practice once you got your second wind."
The 'Bows are hoping that their second wind can lead to a second win over the Wolf Pack this month. Hawai'i defeated Nevada, 73-69 in overtime, on Jan. 5 in Honolulu.
"You just want to have a chance to win the game at the end," Wallace said. "So we want the game to be at the same pace as the last time."
Nevada forward Nick Fazekas scored a career-high 37 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in the loss at Hawai'i. He leads the WAC in scoring with 20.9 points per game, and is third in rebounding with 9.1 per game.
Wallace said the 'Bows may put more defensive focus on Fazekas today. In the game at Honolulu, several different 'Bows rotated against Fazekas.
"I don't want to see him get another 37 and 15, especially at home where the crowd will get behind him," Wallace said. "We're looking at some double-teams, maybe some zone. It depends how the game goes."
Ahmet Gueye, Hawai'i's best low-post defender, will draw the initial assignment against Fazekas.
"He's strong in the post and he can step outside and shoot it, too," Gueye said. "It's a big challenge. You just have to try and not let him catch the ball. Get him frustrated, maybe get him into foul trouble."
In the loss at Hawai'i, Fazekas took 25 shots, and the rest of his teammates combined for 35.
"Fazekas had the game of his life against us the last time and we still won," Lojeski said. "As long as we don't let anyone else go off, we should have a good chance."
Fazekas had 25 points and 11 rebounds in Nevada's 82-79 victory at Boise State on Thursday. The win prevented what would have been Nevada's first three-game losing streak since 2001.
"We were fortunate to pull that one out because we haven't been playing very well lately," Nevada head coach Mark Fox said. "I think we hit a wall there for a while, but hopefully this win will get us out of it."
Fox said he does not want to see Fazekas have the same kind of game today that he did in Honolulu.
"Hawai'i beat us fair and square over there," Fox said. "But it's pretty clear we're a better team when we have some balance. We can't just put everything on Nick."
Despite Hawai'i's victory over the Wolf Pack in Honolulu, the oddsmakers are apparently of the 'Bows' road history. Nevada is listed as an 8 1/2-point favorite in Reno casinos.
"We're the underdogs here, no question," Wallace said. "So it's the kind of game that can really get you going for the rest of the year if you pull it off."
Reach Dayton Morinaga at email@example.com.