'Bows hoping to rise from cellar
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
The University of Hawai'i men's basketball team may be in dead last, but it still has a pulse.
The Rainbow Warriors have three games remaining to climb out of last place in the Western Athletic Conference, including tonight's home finale against Nevada.
Hawai'i will host the Wolf Pack on "Senior Night" at the Stan Sheriff Center tonight at 7:05.
"Our guys are challenged," Hawai'i head coach Bob Nash said. "They know if we want to have a chance to get to the WAC Tournament, we have to beat Nevada."
The 'Bows, who have lost nine games in a row, are 9-18 overall and in ninth place in the nine-team WAC at 2-11. Only the top eight teams at the end of the regular season will qualify for the WAC Tournament at Reno, Nev.
Boise State is in eighth place at 3-10, and Idaho is in seventh at 4-9. Hawai'i will close the regular season with road games against Boise State and Idaho next week.
Hawai'i's March 4 game at Boise State is the key contest, but a victory over Nevada tonight would certainly help the 'Bows' cause.
"We still have an opportunity to make the (WAC) Tournament," senior forward Adhar Mayen said. "We just have to keep playing hard, just play together, play smart. Let's rally up and just get a win."
It would also bring an end to the misery of the losing streak. The last time a Hawai'i basketball team had a longer losing streak was in 1988, when it lost 10 consecutive WAC games.
"I think it's something that everybody on this team needs to help us," senior forward Brandon Adams said. "We need this win."
It's not going to be easy against a Nevada team that is still in contention for the WAC regular-season championship.
The Wolf Pack is 17-10 overall and in third place in the WAC at 9-4. Utah State, which beat Hawai'i, 61-50, on Thursday, is in first place at 11-2.
"We know that Nevada is coming in here and it's going to be a hard fought game because they have great personnel," Nash said.
In particular, Nevada forward Luke Babbitt has emerged as the leading contender for WAC Player of the Year. The 6-foot-9 sophomore is averaging 21.6 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, and has a .515 field-goal percentage and .901 free-throw percentage.
Nevada also has an All-WAC point guard in Armon Johnson, who is averaging 16.6 points per game and a WAC-best 5.4 assists per game.
Hawai'i, meanwhile, has struggled for the last six weeks with its one-guard lineup.
Junior point guard Hiram Thompson is the team's only scholarship guard available, and he is playing with several nagging injuries.
"We just don't have another guy who can come in and run the offense as smooth as he does," Nash said. "Teams recognize that and they try to take the ball out of his hands."
And it appears it will be that way for the remaining three games.
Junior guard Dwain Williams has been on an indefinite suspension for all of February for violating team rules.
When asked if Williams could return for any of the final three games, Nash replied: "He's still on indefinite suspension."
In any case, tonight will be the final home game for five Hawai'i seniors — Adams, Petras Balocka, Paul Campbell, Roderick Flemings and Mayen.
"I think we deserve to win," Mayen said. "We just have to keep practicing hard ... then just get one for the fans. It would be a great way to end out our senior year."
Roderick Flemings now ranks 20th on Hawai'i's all-time list of top scorers. He has 909 points through his two seasons as a 'Bow. Only seven other two-year Hawai'i players have scored more points. Tom Henderson holds the two-year scoring record with 1,082 points.