'Bows fall to Aggies in WAC tournament
|||Botez brought spark off UH bench|
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
RENO, Nev. — The short-handed University of Hawai'i men's basketball team came up one point short last night.
New Mexico State defeated the Rainbow Warriors, 58-57, in a Western Athletic Conference Tournament quarterfinal game at the Lawlor Events Center.
Hawai'i had a chance to win it in the closing seconds, but Julian Sensley's difficult shot from the baseline bounced off the rim, and Matthew Gipson's putback attempt also missed as the final horn sounded.
"It just went down to the wire and this time it didn't fall for us," Hawai'i head coach Riley Wallace said.
The 'Bows are 17-11 and must now wait to see if they get invited to the NIT, which will announce its field Sunday.
"For us, 17-11, I don't know whether that will get it there," Wallace said. "Especially with the loss of Ahmet Gueye. A real important player for us, and we lost the last two games (without him)."
New Mexico State improved to 16-13, and will play host Nevada in tonight's semifinals.
In a game of swings, the Aggies got the momentum last. Hawai'i rallied from a 10-point deficit in the first half, and then lost a seven-point lead in the second half.
New Mexico State won despite not scoring in the final two minutes of the game. With the Aggies ahead 58-57, Hawai'i got its last possession with 15 seconds remaining.
Sensley took the ball to the baseline, and then put up a shot from about 15 feet away with two New Mexico State defenders on him.
"I tried to draw contact, get the foul," he said. "When it left my hand, I tried to give it a soft touch, but I guess it was too hard. I probably should have kicked it out. They doubled me, but in the heat of the moment, you're just not thinking about that."
Wallace said it was the same play that Hawai'i used Feb. 25 in a 61-60 victory over San Jose State, when Sensley hit the game-winner.
"We got exactly what we wanted," Wallace said. "It just didn't fall."
Gipson grabbed the rebound, and his bank shot from close range also bounced off the rim.
"It was tough just looking at that rebound," New Mexico State's Mike Mitchell said. "Thank god he missed it."
New Mexico State head coach Reggie Theus said his team's defensive plan was to crowd Sensley.
"They had to go with Sensley or (Matt) Lojeski," Theus said. "Under those circumstances, you know who's going to get the ball."
Sensley once again led the Hawai'i attack with 16 points and four rebounds. Chris Botez added 13 points and six rebounds, Deonte Tatum contributed 12 points, and Lojeski chipped in 10.
The 'Bows lost their second consecutive game without starting center Gueye, who injured his knee last week. The 'Bows had just eight scholarship player in uniform last night, and five of them are guards.
"You don't want to make excuses because New Mexico State beat us and they played well tonight," Wallace said. "But when you lose someone of the value and strength of our center, that's tough."
In Gueye's absence, the 'Bows played a zone defense the entire game in an effort to conserve energy and slow the pace of the quicker Aggies.
"I thought our zone was very effective against them," Wallace said. "Slowed them down, got them in a half-court game, which is what we wanted."
Oddly enough, New Mexico State's winning basket came on a rare fastbreak opportunity when Shaun Davis scored on a three-point play. After a steal, he scored on a layup, got fouled and made the ensuing free throw to give the Aggies a 58-56 lead with 2:07 remaining.
Tatum committed his fifth foul on the play. It was the first time this season that he fouled out of a game.
"You have to know our team to know how much Tatum means to the stability on the floor," Wallace said. "It was a key. We need to keep him on the floor as much as possible."
Tatum said: "It was frustrating because I felt like a couple of the calls didn't go my way. But I was still confident in the young guys. Even after I went out, I felt like we were going to win the game."
Hawai'i had a chance to tie the game, but Botez made one of two free throws with 53.6 seconds remaining for the final point of the game. New Mexico State's Tyrone Nelson missed a shot on the ensuing possession, setting up Hawai'i's final attempts.
Nelson led the Aggies with 16 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Elijah Ingram, who did not play in a 61-56 loss at Hawai'i last week because of a hamstring injury, added 13 points and five assists.
Both teams shot an identical 23 of 49 from the field. The Aggies went 7 of 17 from the free-throw line, and Hawai'i went 7 of 16.
Theus said the most significant statistic was New Mexico State winning the rebound battle, 35-29.
The Aggies had a 23-13 lead midway through the first half, and eventually took a 30-26 lead at intermission. Sensley drained a 3-pointer just before the first half ended, and the 'Bows rode the momentum into the second half.
Hawai'i opened the second half with a 13-2 run to take a 39-32 lead. The Aggies caught the 'Bows at 47-47 with 6:57 remaining, and it stayed close the rest of the way.
"It's always frustrating to end a game like that," Tatum said. "But we played hard to the end. For everything we had to go through, I feel like we can still be proud. And I think we deserve a (NIT) shot."
NO. 21 NEVADA 68, IDAHO 55
Nevada coach Mark Fox didn't mind that the No. 21 Wolf Pack had an off night en route to a win over last-place Idaho (4-25).
Nick Fazekas had 20 points and nine rebounds last night to lead Nevada (25-5) to its 12th consecutive victory, the second-longest winning streak in the NCAA behind Gonzaga's 18 straight.
"We didn't play particularly well, but we made enough plays to win," said Fox, whose squad won its third regular-season WAC title in a row and is bidding for its third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament.
"I trust my team. We've had games like this before and won. I don't panic."
Marcelus Kemp added 14 points, DeMarshay Johnson 11 and Mo Charlo 10 for the Wolf Pack, who are 15-1 at home this year.
They will play New Mexico State in tonight's semifinals.
UTAH STATE 76, SAN JOSE STATE 69
Nate Harris led four players scoring in double figures with 19 points, and also had 11 rebounds as Utah State hung on to beat San Jose State.
Chaz Spicer scored 15 points, David Pak 12 and Jaycee Carroll 11 for the Aggies (22-7), who made 18-of-20 free throws and used an 18-1 run to build a 37-25 halftime lead.
Demetrius Brown scored 17 of his game-high 26 points in the second half for the Spartans (6-25), who shot just 28 percent from the field in the first half.
LOUISIANA TECH 75, BOISE STATE 64
Paul Millsap scored 19 points and had 17 rebounds as Louisiana Tech beat Boise State in the quarterfinals.
Third-seeded Louisiana Tech (20-11) had a 54-52 lead with under seven minutes to play but went on an 18-5 run over a five-minute span to put away No. 6 seed Boise State (14-15).
Millsap, who had four points at halftime, scored 10 points in that stretch.
Trey McDowell added 13 points for the Bulldogs.
Reach Dayton Morinaga at email@example.com.