Who will rebound: 'Bows or Broncos?
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
BOISE, Idaho — Officially, the name of the state is Idaho.
But after what the University of Hawai'i and Boise State men's basketball teams went through on Thursday, tonight's game between the Rainbow Warriors and Broncos might as well take place in a state of depression.
The 'Bows arrived in Boise yesterday afternoon, still somewhat stunned after Thursday's buzzer-beating 76-75 loss at Idaho.
"It hurt," Hawai'i junior forward Bobby Nash said. "It hurt from the moment the game ended all the way to (yesterday) morning. But you have to move on. There's another big game to play, and we have to do what ever it takes to get ready."
It will probably help Hawai'i that Boise State suffered its own shocking loss on Thursday. The Broncos blew a nine-point lead — and got out-scored 10-0 — in the final 1 minute, 20 seconds of an 80-79 loss at Utah State.
The Broncos returned home to Boise yesterday, around the same time the 'Bows arrived.
"Both teams had a couple of tough ones," Boise State head coach Greg Graham said. "But we were both right there until the end. Both teams are playing well, so it's a matter of which team can bounce back."
Hawai'i is 10-8 overall and 1-4 in the Western Athletic Conference. Boise State is 8-8 and 2-3.
Today's game is scheduled to start at 4:05 p.m. (Hawai'i time) in Taco Bell Arena. The wake-up call for both teams should come in the form of a rare sellout crowd.
All 12,380 tickets have been sold, in large part because the Boise State football team will be honored today for its undefeated season and Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma. There will be a parade in downtown Boise prior to the game, and the football team will be honored at halftime.
It will be the first sellout crowd for a Boise State basketball game since 1993. In the first eight home games of this season, the Broncos were averaging 3,473 fans per game.
"The success of our football team has been a tremendous boost to all the teams at Boise State," Graham said. "There's an excitement in the community about the school and it really put Boise State on the map."
Wallace told his team to be ready to play in a raucous environment.
"It's the same thing we see at Fresno and Nevada," Wallace said. "We've played in places like that before, so we can't let it bother us."
Hawai'i senior center Ahmet Gueye said: "Once we heard it was going to be a sellout, we got excited. I think it will be better for us to play in something like that. It's better than playing in a small gym."
A gymnastics event was being staged in Taco Bell Arena last night, so the 'Bows had to practice in a nearby auxiliary gym. Wallace said after the two-hour practice that his team appears to be consistent in one category — resilience.
"These guys are the same all the time, win or lose," Wallace said. "So that was kind of good to see, because I know they're focusing on (Boise State)."
Hawai'i swept Boise State last season, but the Broncos appear to be improved.
Senior guard Coby Karl is in his fourth season as a starter, and leads the team with 16.1 points and 4.1 assists per game. He leads all WAC players with 49 3-pointers.
However, the Broncos are better this season because of the inside presence of 6-foot-6 Reggie Larry and 6-9 Matt Nelson.
Larry is averaging 13.8 points and 8.0 rebounds per game; Nelson is averaging 14.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.
"They've always had the perimeter guys who could shoot the ball," Wallace said. "But now they've got inside guys, too. That's why I said at the beginning of the year that this was the sleeper team in the WAC."
Hawai'i will stick with its same starting lineup — Matt Gibson and Matt Lojeski at guards, Nash and P.J. Owsley at forwards, and Gueye at center.
There could be an intriguing battle between two of the WAC's best guards in Karl and Lojeski, since they might defend each other during today's game. Lojeski, a 6-6 senior, is averaging 17.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game.
Dominic Waters, who scored a career-high 18 points in the loss at Idaho, and Riley Luettgerodt will be the first players off the bench for the 'Bows.
"We have to be mentally strong," Nash said. "After that loss (Thursday), we have to show we can stay together."
Reach Dayton Morinaga at firstname.lastname@example.org.