UH hopes slow and steady wins the pace
On an unfamiliar road, the slow lane is always the safest.
The University of Hawai'i men's basketball team is also hoping it is the most successful way to reach an elusive road victory.
The undermanned Rainbow Warriors will continue to play a deliberate style when they take on fast-paced New Mexico State in a Western Athletic Conference game today.
The game is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. (Hawai'i time) at the Pan American Center in Las Cruces, N.M. It will be broadcast live on KFVE (Ch. 5) television and ESPN 1420 AM radio.
"We have to play at our pace and not get caught up in theirs," Hawai'i head coach Bob Nash said. "They like to get up and down the floor. They want to run, dunk, shoot quick 3s in transition ... we certainly can't keep up with that pace with our situation right now."
The 'Bows have maintained a slow pace for nearly a month, not scoring more than 60 points in their past five games.
Problem is, it has not been enough to win.
The 'Bows have lost six in a row and are 9-15 overall and 2-9 in the WAC. They are also 0-6 on the road this season, and 0-4 all-time against the Aggies in the Pan American Center.
Perhaps because of their unsuccessful history in Las Cruces, the 'Bows are staying in nearby El Paso, Texas. They practiced at Bel Air High School in El Paso last night, and will make the 50-minute drive to Las Cruces for today's game.
"The airport is right here in El Paso, so we wanted to get in, get to practice, then have enough time to rest," Nash said. "Just trying something different."
Hawai'i traveled from Ruston, La., to El Paso yesterday. The 'Bows pushed Louisiana Tech to the final minutes before succumbing in a 66-60 loss on Saturday.
Today could be an even tougher test.
New Mexico State is 15-9 overall and tied for second place in the WAC at 8-3.
The Aggies have arguably the most talented starting five in the WAC, led by guards Jahmar Young and Jonathan Gibson.
Young is third in the WAC with 21.0 points per game, and Gibson is fifth at 18.1 points per game.
Gibson is also ranked eighth in the nation in 3-pointers with 77, and the Aggies lead the WAC with 8.5 3-pointers per game.
"They're quick enough to get by you, but they can also shoot over you," Nash said. "They present a lot of problems."
The Aggies are equally effective inside. They have two players averaging more than nine rebounds per game — 6-foot-6 Wendell McKines is averaging 11.7 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, and 6-11 Hamidu Rahman is averaging 11.2 points and 9.0 rebounds per game.
Still, Hawai'i nearly upset New Mexico State a month ago in Honolulu. The Aggies needed a last-second shot by Young to edge the 'Bows, 71-69.
"There are some things we did well in that game that we have to do again," Nash said.
One of those things was a double-double from Roderick Flemings. He had one of his best games of the season against the Aggies with 23 points and 10 rebounds.
But once again, the 'Bows will play with a depleted backcourt. Junior point guard Hiram Thompson played all 40 minutes in the loss at Louisiana Tech, mainly because he is the only experienced guard on the trip.
In an effort to conserve the team's energy, Nash said the 'Bows will employ a 2-3 zone defense, and use a deliberate offense.
"We'll change the pace here and there," he said. "But it's no secret we're short-handed. We have to put ourselves in a position to win, and if that means playing an ugly game, we'll do that."