Hawaii succeeded with a lot on the line
By Ferd Lewis
The difference between the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team being able to heave a sigh of relief and leaving with its head in its hands was a mere 15 feet last night.
Which is to say the margin between being winless in the WAC and 1-1 for the Rainbow Warriors was measured in the area from the free-throw line to the basket.
On a night when they struggled in other phases of their game and risked seeing their season quickly go down in flames, the 'Bows summoned relief at the free-throw line down the stretch to put away Boise State, 76-68.
With the game on the line, the 'Bows converted 10 consecutive free throws and 14 of their last 15 to go back above .500 overall at 8-7.
UH might struggle with its field-goal shooting for a time — and definitely has with its 3-point accuracy (26.7 percent last night) — but the 'Bows know where their hope of last resort is: at the free-throw line.
In that the 'Bows are among the most free-throw dependent teams in Division I with nearly 28 percent of their points this season coming from free throws. Last year, at 25.9 percent, they had the fourth highest reliance on free throws among 343 Division I teams.
So, when the 'Bows suffered in the WAC opener Saturday, converting just 66 percent of their free throws and missing the front end of three consecutive one-and-one situations late, head coach Bob Nash sent them back to Free Throw 101 this week.
"We told them they weren't leaving (after practice) until they made their free throws," Nash said.
So they shot ... and shot until they each made 10 in a row in practice.
Said guard Hiram Thompson : "We felt like we would have had a better shot (against Idaho) if we'd hit our free throws and he wanted us to be ready in case it came down to that again."
And for the longest time it seemed as if the Broncos had the 'Bows right where they wanted them when UH went to the line. The 'Bows made but 6 of 9 in the first half and missed the first two in the second half to the groans of a Stan Sheriff Center crowd of 2,772.
When desperation forced Boise State to foul down the stretch, the 'Bows were ready. Especially Jeremy Lay, who came off the bench as ball handling insurance and something of the designated foul shooter. He made all eight attempts with copier-like precision and Thompson converted 6 of 8.
"We feel like, when we have to, we can out-shoot anybody at the line," Thompson said.
Last night they definitely had to.