Vandals strike Hawaii
• Photo gallery: Hawaii vs. Idaho basketball
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
The University of Hawai'i men's basketball team was as cold as ... Moscow, Idaho, last night.
As a result, the Rainbow Warriors lost their Western Athletic Conference season opener, 59-52, at the Stan Sheriff Center.
"Offensively, we just couldn't really knock down shots, that's really what it came down to," Hawai'i center Paul Campbell said. "Fifty-nine points on defense is a great job, 52 points on offense isn't."
A crowd of 3,609 at the Sheriff Center watched the 'Bows drop to 7-7 overall.
Idaho, which made the trip from Moscow to Honolulu on Friday, improved to 8-4.
The 52 points is a season-low for Hawai'i.
"We got off to kind of a slow start and allowed them to get some energy," Hawai'i head coach Bob Nash said. "As a result, we tried to play catch up all night long."
The 'Bows cut a 14-point deficit to three in the closing minutes, but ultimately could never catch the Vandals in the second half.
Campbell led Hawai'i with 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting, including four dunks. He also grabbed seven rebounds to lead Hawai'i to a 35-29 advantage on the boards.
However, he was the only Hawai'i player to shoot better than 50 percent from the field.
As a team, the 'Bows finished with a .367 field goal percentage. Most notable, they had their worst long-range shooting game of the season.
Hawai'i went just 2 of 15 from 3-point range for a .125 percentage.
"On a normal day, we'll make those shots," Nash said. "Dwain's not going to go 1 for 10 every night."
Dwain Williams finished with five points on 1-of-10 shooting, including 0 for 5 from 3-point range. He averaged 28.0 points per game in his previous three games.
Nash said the physical defensive play of the Vandals affected Hawai'i's perimeter game.
"Tonight's game was very physical," Nash said. "And when you have small guards, they beat you up. The referees did a good job controlling the game, but our guys have to realize how physical this conference is."
The 'Bows also tied a season-low with 14 free throws (in 21 attempts).
"We felt like we played good defense the whole night ... we were happy about that," Hawai'i point guard Hiram Thompson said. "Just on the offensive end, we weren't hitting our shots and at times getting out of our offense. (Idaho) did normal man-to-man defense, we just missed a lot of easy shots."
Idaho's Don Verlin described it as the best defensive performance by the Vandals in his two seasons as head coach. He had particular praise for guards Kashif Watson and Mac Hopson.
"That's as good as we've played defensively since I've been at Idaho," Verlin said. "Home or away."
Hopson also proved his worth as a first-team All-WAC selection last season. He had his best game of this season, finishing with a game-high 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range.
"Obviously, Mac Hopson played like the player he was tonight," Verlin said. "That was the difference in the game."
Last season, Hopson had his worst game of the season with five points in a 71-49 victory by Hawai'i over Idaho in the Sheriff Center.
When asked if last season's game was on the mind of the Vandals last night, Verlin replied: "Absolutely. They beat us 71-49 here, and I got a bunch of guys back from last year."
The only other Hawai'i player to reach double-figure points last night was Roderick Flemings, who scored 10.
He sat out the previous two games with a bruised right knee. He did not start last night, but still played 35 minutes.
Thompson contributed eight points and three assists, and Brandon Adams had eight points and eight rebounds for Hawai'i.
The 'Bows also got a season-worst performance from senior forward Petras Balocka, who finished with zero points and one rebound. He was averaging 10.3 points and 10.1 rebounds per game prior to last night.
Balocka played just seven minutes. He started the second half, but sat out the final 18 minutes of the game.
"For some reason, he didn't have the energy level tonight," Nash said. "We have to get him back on track because he is a big part of what we do. Certainly, when he doesn't play well, we struggle at times."
The game was close early, and Hawai'i had a brief 20-19 lead midway through the first half.
The Vandals closed the first half with a 14-4 run to take a 36-25 advantage. Steffan Johnson capped the surge by banking in a 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer.
Idaho increased the lead to 40-26 early in the second half before the 'Bows tried to make it exciting down the stretch.
An 11-2 run by the 'Bows cut the Idaho lead to 45-42 with 6:26 remaining. Flemings scored six during the surge, including a breakaway dunk.
But the 'Bows never got closer than three points, and went 0 for 6 from 3-point range in the final 2:30.
"We have to let this one go," Nash said. "This is one that got away from us."
Hawai'i will continue WAC play by hosting Boise State tomorrow at the Sheriff Center. The Broncos will come here off a 71-68 loss at Fresno State last night.
"We certainly can't afford to get two losses here at home to start the conference and expect to be in it at the end," Nash said.
LOUISIANA TECH 77, NEVADA 71
Jamel Guyton scored 21 points, Olu Ashaolu added 14 points and 12 rebounds, and the host Bulldogs (13-2) scored 40 points in the paint to turn back the Wolf Pack (8-6) in the WAC opener for both. Luke Babbitt had 24 points and 13 rebounds for Nevada.
FRESNO STATE 71, BOISE STATE 68
Paul George scored 21 points, capped by two three-point plays in the final minute, to rally the host Bulldogs (8-7) over the Broncos (9-5). Daequon Montreal led Boise State with 24 points off the bench.
NEW MEXICO STATE 55, UTAH STATE 52
Jonathan Gibson hit a jumper with 16.2 seconds remaining as host New Mexico (6-2) held off a late rally by Utah State (10-5). New Mexico State led by 11 with 6:53 to play but didn't score again until Gibson's jumper.