'Bows buck Broncos for first WAC victory
• Photo gallery: Hawaii vs. Boise State - Basketball
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
This ain't football.
The University of Hawai'i men's basketball team made sure that the Boise State celebration did not extend to the Stan Sheriff Center last night.
The Rainbow Warriors scored a much-needed 76-68 Western Athletic Conference victory over the Broncos.
"This game was real important for us," Hawai'i center Paul Campbell said. "We knew we couldn't start 0-2 in the WAC, especially with the two games at home. We had to set the tone for the rest of the season tonight, and I think we did that."
A crowd of 2,772 at the Stan Sheriff Center watched the 'Bows improve to 8-7 overall and 1-1 in conference.
Just a few hours after the Boise State football team capped its undefeated season at the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, the Bronco basketball team dropped to 9-6 overall and 0-2 in the WAC.
"It's huge," Hawai'i point guard Hiram Thompson said. "This was a must-win, being at home, starting off the conference right."
It wasn't easy. The 'Bows blew a 14-point lead in the first half, regained the lead early in the second half, then held off a late charge from an aggressive Boise State defense at the end.
The 'Bows got back to winning form as forward Roderick Flemings got back into his scoring form. The 6-foot-7 senior scored 20 points, including 14 in the decisive second half.
It was the first time in eight games that he was able to hit the 20-point mark.
"I told myself I was going to shoot a lot more outside shots today," Flemings said. "I don't feel like it was a great shooting performance, but I got a few to go. Enough to win the game."
Flemings shot 8 of 20 from the field and played the entire 40 minutes. He shot 5 of 10 in the second half, including two 3-pointers.
"I thought one of the big differences was Flemings in the second half," Boise State head coach Greg Graham said. "He got rolling and gave them the separation."
Flemings had been averaging just 9.0 points per game in his last three games, due in part to a bruised knee.
"I thought Rod Flemings did a great job of working without the basketball," Hawai'i head coach Bob Nash said. "He was very aggressive offensively."
Flemings got lots of help.
Thompson had 15 points, six rebounds and three assists. Thirteen of his 15 points came in the second half.
"In the second half, we just kind of ran through our offense," Thompson said. "We were more patient."
Campbell continued his recent run of efficiency with 14 points and nine rebounds, helping lead the 'Bows to a 36-32 advantage on the boards.
The 6-10 senior shot 7 of 8 from the field. In his last three games, Campbell is averaging 14.0 points and 10.3 rebounds per game and has a .792 field-goal percentage.
"I'm sore and I'm tired — the conference games are real physical," Campbell said. "But I'm going to be smiling for a while. When you win, your body doesn't hurt as much."
Adhar Mayen contributed 13 points and five rebounds for the 'Bows, and Jeremy Lay came in off the bench to help seal the victory by shooting 8 for 8 on free throws in the closing minutes.
Nash also had high praise for senior forward Petras Balocka, who had three points, nine rebounds and a team-high five assists.
"He did a great job of being the facilitator on a lot of our offense," Nash said.
The 'Bows needed a group effort, as junior guard Dwain Williams was unable to play because of a shoulder injury. He entered the game as the team's leading scorer at 14.8 points per game (Flemings now leads at 15.0 per game).
"They played team basketball tonight to bring the victory home," Nash said.
Hawai'i raced to an 8-2 lead in the opening minutes of the game, and increased it to 21-7 with 8:56 remaining in the first half.
The Broncos answered with a stunning 12-0 run to cut the Hawai'i lead to 21-19. Boise State eventually took a 28-27 lead at intermission.
"We didn't really make any special adjustments," Nash said. "We told them just to come back out and play team basketball."
Hawai'i opened the second half with a 14-6 surge to take a 41-34 lead, and stayed in front the rest of the way.
Flemings scored seven points during a five-minute stretch that increased the Hawai'i lead to 52-44.
"That's why he's an all-conference player, that's why the (NBA) is looking at him," Graham said. "He stepped up and we didn't have anybody who could step up and match him."
The Broncos tried to rally with a full-court pressure defense, and got as close as 58-54 with 4:53 remaining.
The 'Bows secured the win by going 12 of 13 on free throws in the final three minutes. They finished 20 of 26 on free throws to Boise State's 13 of 21.
La'Shard Anderson led Boise State with 18 points. He usually starts, but was forced to come in off the bench due to an error on the starting lineup sheet.
Daequon Montreal added 16, and Anthony Thomas scored 13 for the Broncos.
Boise State shot 41.9 percent from the field, including just 17.6 percent (3 of 17) from 3-point range. Hawai'i shot 45.6 percent from the field and 26.7 percent from 3-point range.
The 'Bows will make their first WAC road trip later this week. They will play at Fresno State on Saturday, then at Utah State on Monday.