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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 26, 2010

Losing is a mental thing for Hawaii

By Ferd Lewis

All you needed to know about the University of Hawai'i's 61-50 basketball loss to Utah State, if not this whole painful season, could be wrapped up in one telltale exchange last night.

There for all to see or at least the 2,464 at the Stan Sheriff Center in the waning seconds of the first half was a microcosm of this now nine-game losing streak.

With 29 seconds remaining and the Rainbow Warriors down by six points (23-17), Petras Balocka went to the free-throw line.

It was bad enough that he missed the front end of the one-and-one situation one of three the 'Bows squandered on a night of just 50 percent free-throw shooting but in going after the rebound he hastily fouled Jared Quayle with 28 seconds left.

Quayle, however, didn't miss his free throws for the Aggies, who converted on 72 percent of their attempts, and led 25-17 at halftime.

What had been a chance to narrow the gap to four became, instead, for all intents and purposes, a four-point turnaround. Suddenly the window of opportunity that had been open for the 'Bows against the Western Athletic Conference's best team slammed shut with them never getting closer than six points again.

"Mental errors can hurt you," sighed head coach Bob Nash in what has become a familiar refrain this season. Just change the names.

It was the latest reminder of why the 'Bows are 9-18 (2-11 WAC), mired in their longest in-season losing streak since 1987-'88, and at the bottom of the WAC standings and are careening toward WAC Tournament elimination.

And, on the flip side, why the Aggies are 23-6 (12-2 WAC), have won 13 consecutive games, atop the conference standings and rolling into the postseason.

One finds ways to win; the other can't.

Last night, it was made all the more vivid for a couple of reasons. One of them being that Boise State, which had been tied with UH at the tail end of the standings, upset Louisiana Tech in Ruston, La., 72-59, to increase the pressure on the 'Bows, who have three regular-season games remaining and probably need to win at least two.

The other is that "18" that was supposed to be the 'Bows' magic number this season as in the amount of wins they were pledged to put up under terms of Nash's contact or reach the postseason.

But the "magic" long ago vanished from this season.