Dictating pace key to 'Bows' chances
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
The University of Hawai'i men's basketball team is not quite ready to take the fast lane to the top of the Western Athletic Conference, so the Rainbow Warriors want to move up at their own pace.
The 'Bows will host New Mexico State in a WAC game tonight at the Stan Sheriff Center.
"When we get opportunities to run, we will," Hawai'i head coach Bob Nash said. "But we don't play as fast as New Mexico State and we don't want to get caught up in their game. We're at home, we want to control the pace and play at our speed."
Hawai'i is 9-9 overall and tied for sixth place in the WAC at 2-3. The Aggies are 11-7 overall and in second place in the WAC at 4-1.
"As a basketball player, you look forward to any challenge," Hawai'i junior guard Jeremy Lay said. "But this team coming in here being so athletic and with such good guards, it'll be a good test to see where we're at."
New Mexico State has arguably the WAC's most talented starting lineup.
Junior guard Jahmar Young led the WAC in scoring last season, and is fourth in the conference this season at 20.3 points per game. Senior guard Jonathan Gibson is fifth in the WAC in scoring at 19.3 points per game and ranks second in the nation with 61 3-pointers. Junior forward Wendell McKines won the WAC rebounding title last season, and is third this season with 9.9 per game.
"They require you to be attentive at all times, defensively," Nash said. "They can score from anywhere, any time."
Young, who is 6 feet 5 and 180 pounds, was a first-team All-WAC selection last season.
"There are some really good guards in this league, and I think Young is one of the top two or three," Nash said. "He can shoot the ball, but he's quick enough to get to the rim."
Lay is considered Hawai'i's best defensive guard, and he said he'd accept the role of guarding either Young or Gibson.
"That's an aspect of my game I take a lot of pride in," Lay said. "I don't care how big or small a guy is, I'll do what ever it takes to stop him."
In Hawai'i's last game — a 68-67 victory over San Jose State on Sunday — Lay defended Adrian Oliver, who is second in the WAC in scoring. Oliver finished with 20 points on 8-of-17 shooting.
"He got his points, but my job was to make it as difficult as possible for him, and I think I did that," Lay said.
Young has a similar aggressive style as Oliver, and is also seeking individual redemption from last season. In New Mexico State's 70-59 win at Hawai'i last season, Young was suspended for the first half and finished with a season-low six points.
"I remember that game because I had to sit out the first half," he said. "I just want to go out and have a good game and win."
If not Lay, the 'Bows could also use 6-7 Roderick Flemings in a marquee matchup with Young. Flemings is Hawai'i's leading scorer at 14.1 points per game.
"Hawai'i is tough because they're big across the board," Young said. "It's a challenge, but we don't shy away from challenges. We're ready."
The Aggies are averaging 77.0 points per game, but are also allowing 78.6 per game.
"One of our signatures is we like to score points," New Mexico State head coach Marvin Menzies said. "Whether we're at home or on the road, we try to capitalize on every opportunity to score."
However, Menzies said Hawai'i's inconsistencies make it difficult to prepare for the 'Bows.
"They have some personnel that can be very deadly at times," Menzies said. "The kid Lay, for example. He was relatively unknown this year, then he goes out and starts against San Jose and hits five 3s. With Hawai'i, it's a matter of if they play well on a given night. You hope to catch them on one of their off nights."
In an effort to better acclimate to Hawai'i, the Aggies arrived in Honolulu on Tuesday afternoon and did not practice until last night.
"We wanted to give our guys at least a day to get their legs back after that long flight," Menzies said. "And we wanted to practice at night just because of the time difference. We need to adjust our bodies."
The Aggies will catch the 'Bows without junior guard Dwain Williams. He has not practiced since the death of his cousin on Saturday, and is not expected to play today or Saturday, when the 'Bows host first-place Louisiana Tech.
"We're letting him deal with his family situation right now, and he'll be leaving for the funeral this weekend," Nash said.
The plan is for Williams to rejoin the team on a road trip to San Jose State next week.