'Bows hope to bowl over Broncos
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
While the rest of the sporting world focuses on Boise State football, the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team will focus on Boise State basketball today.
The Rainbow Warriors will host the Broncos tonight in what has become a crucial early-season Western Athletic Conference game for both teams.
Both are coming off WAC losses on Saturday.
"Yeah, you can call it a must win," Hawai'i senior forward Adhar Mayen said. "We have to get this game right here. We have to protect our home court and get back to winning."
The 'Bows are 7-7 overall and 0-1 in the WAC after a 59-52 loss to Idaho on Saturday. It was Hawai'i's lowest scoring output of the season.
The Broncos are 9-5 and 0-1 after a last-minute 71-68 loss at Fresno State on Saturday.
"It's one of those situations where we need to get a win and they need to get a win," Hawai'i head coach Bob Nash said. "It makes for an exciting game. We have to be at our best because in conference, everybody knows your stuff. There's no secrets."
But the 'Bows may have a secret that won't be revealed until game time — the availability of junior guard Dwain Williams. He aggravated a shoulder injury during practice yesterday.
"It happened to me before," Williams said. "It's just a little sore right now. Hopefully it'll be better by (today)."
Williams leads the 'Bows in scoring with 14.8 points per game, although he scored just five points on 1-of-10 shooting in the loss to Idaho.
"It was just one of those nights where we weren't hitting our shots," Williams said. "It was a tough night all-around, but you can't do anything to change that game. We just have to forget about it. We have a lot more conference games we can win."
Several other 'Bows had subpar performances Saturday, including senior forwards Roderick Flemings (10 points, three rebounds) and Petras Balocka (zero points, one rebound).
"We just have to come out and play inspired basketball for 40 minutes," Nash said. "We have to take care of the basketball and control the boards. If there's something to take from that last loss, it's knowing that we have to work that much harder to get wins in the conference."
The Broncos also want to forget about their last game. They led by as many as 10 points against Fresno State, but lost in the game's final 15 seconds.
"We played very well, except for about three minutes — the first two and the last one," Boise State head coach Greg Graham said. "Hey, the league's good. Everybody's good. If you're off your game at home or on the road, you're going to lose."
The Broncos rely on a balanced attack that features six players averaging between 7.8 and 13.9 points per game.
The top player is Ike Okoye, a 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward who is averaging 13.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. He was also named to the WAC's All-Defensive team last season.
"I think they're a little more athletic than they were in the past," Nash said of the Broncos. "They're not shooting from 3 as much as they have in the past, but they're certainly capable. I think it's that they have some bigs who are crafty in how they post up, and they've been going inside a little more."
Boise State has caused Hawai'i problems in recent years by running its big men up and down the court. The Broncos have won the last five meetings with Hawai'i, a streak dating to the 2007-08 season.
"I know their bigs are athletic and they like to push the tempo," Hawai'i center Paul Campbell said. "But I don't have a problem running. I think that would make it a fun game."
Campbell, a 6-10 senior, has emerged as Hawai'i's most consistent player recently. He scored 14 points in each of the last two games. Prior to that, his career-high was 13.
He has also grabbed 22 rebounds in the last two games.
"I think I'm playing well right now, but I don't care about that if we lose," Campbell said. "As long as we win, I don't care how I do."
Like the 'Bows, the Broncos have been somewhat inconsistent this season. Boise State has scored as many as 96 points in a game this season, and as few as 56.
Hawai'i's scores have ranged from 96 to 52.
"They're a little bit like us," Graham said of the 'Bows. "They showed they can score well at times a little bit, and other times have gone flat."
The Broncos might look to their football team to provide inspiration prior to tonight's game.
The Boise State football team will take on TCU today in a battle of unbeaten teams in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. The game is scheduled to start at 3 p.m., so Graham said his team will try to watch the first half before heading to the Sheriff Center.
"I think it'll be good for our guys to watch instead of laying around the hotel and doing nothing," he said. "We'll get revved up a little bit watching the game. Hopefully, it will be good for us."