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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, November 24, 2006

Hawai'i holds off Hofstra

 •  Owsley in element at Great Alaska Shootout

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawai'i's Ahmet Gueye goes up for a shot over Hofstra's Mike Davis-Sabb during the first half. The 'Bows won the Great Alaska Shootout first-round game, 80-79.

AL GRILLO | Associated Press

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska Perhaps it was a sign of things to come when the theme from "Hawai'i Five-O" was played as the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team made its entrance into Sullivan Arena last night.

In any case, the Rainbow Warriors came up big when it mattered most in an 80-79 victory over Hofstra in the first round of the Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout.

"Glad to be playing at night," Hawai'i head coach Riley Wallace said, referring to the 'Bows' semifinal game against California tonight at 7 (Hawai'i time). The Golden Bears beat Marshall, 72-70.

Tonight's game will be broadcast live on 1080 AM, and televised nationally on ESPN2.

A crowd of around 1,500 at the Sullivan Arena watched the 'Bows hold off a late rally by the Pride to improve to 3-1. Hofstra dropped to 0-3.

Senior co-captain Matt Lojeski had 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists to lead Hawai'i. The 6-foot-6 Lojeski started at shooting guard, but he played point guard in the crucial final moments of the game.

"It's part of being a leader," he said. "I just want to help the team any way I can."

Bobby Nash added 17 points, Ahmet Gueye 12 and P.J. Owsley 10 for the 'Bows.

Hawai'i started five players 6-5 and taller, while the Pride went with four starters 6-5 and shorter.

The result was a 38-29 rebounding advantage for the 'Bows. Hawai'i's post players starters Gueye and Stephen Verwers, and reserves Owsley and Todd Follmer out-scored Hofstra's post players, 31-20.

"We knew if we got the ball inside, we could score or get to the free-throw line," Gueye said. "We just had to be patient and work at getting the ball inside."

Hofstra head coach Tom Pecora said Hawai'i "did a great job of taking advantage of our size; they executed their game plan very well."

Hawai'i led by as many as 11 points in the second half, but Hofstra rallied behind a full-court pressure defense to tie the score at 71 with 1:59 remaining.

But Hawai'i scored the next six points to take control 77-71 with 42.7 seconds remaining. Owsley gave Hawai'i the lead for good at 73-71 on a layup off an assist from Lojeski.

Hawai'i made five of six free throws in the final 43 seconds to secure the victory. Overall, the 'Bows went 26 of 31 from the free-throw line.

"We got to the foul line and we made our free throws," Wallace said. "That's going to be a key for us the whole year."

The 'Bows led 80-76 in the closing seconds, then Hofstra's Loren Stokes made a long 3-pointer at the horn for the final margin. He finished with a game-high 29 points, including 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range.

"We knew Stokes was a great player and that he would hurt us off the penetration if we allowed it, and we allowed it, obviously," Wallace said.

The 'Bows took a 39-33 lead at intermission despite playing most of the first half without their top two point guards starter Matt Gibson and Dominic Waters. Gibson picked up two fouls in the first five minutes, and then Waters picked up his second foul with 11:52 remaining in the half.

Hawai'i went with various combinations the rest of the half, with Todd Lowenthal, John Wilder and Lojeski all seeing action at point guard.

Hawai'i trailed 28-25 with 6:45 remaining in the first half, but then closed the half with a 14-5 run to take a six-point advantage at halftime. Nash scored four of his 11 first-half points during the surge.

The 'Bows also closed the first half by employing a 1-2-2 zone defense, a scheme Wallace rarely uses.

"We went to a zone at the end of the half, and that helped us finish strong there," Wallace said.

The 'Bows increased the lead to 44-33 early in the second half, but the Pride kept chipping away. Hawai'i committed 19 turnovers for the game, including 14 in the second half that contributed to the Hofstra rally.

Gibson played most of the second half, but fouled out with 3:01 remaining. Lojeski took over point guard duties in the closing minutes.

"Matt's a senior and he really took charge down the stretch," Wallace said. "He's a true winner."

Gibson, who finished with nine points, five rebounds and four assists, said: "This win showed a lot of character. I would rather have been out there at the end, making sure we got the victory instead of sitting down and biting my nails. But this shows how much depth we have and how we can win as a team if everybody does their part."

Reach Dayton Morinaga at dmorinaga@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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