'Bows, LaTech looking to rebound
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
The University of Hawai'i men's basketball team is coming off a last-second loss.
Louisiana Tech is coming off a rare loss.
Resilience — and rebounding — will be key when the teams meet tonight at the Stan Sheriff Center.
"We really want to play this game, just so we can forget about the last game," Hawai'i senior forward Roderick Flemings said.
The Rainbow Warriors endured a heartbreaking 71-69 loss to New Mexico State on Thursday. Hawai'i is 9-10 overall and in seventh place in the Western Athletic Conference at 2-4.
Louisiana Tech suffered its first WAC loss of the season at San Jose State on Thursday. The Bulldogs are 17-3 overall and tied for first in the WAC at 5-1.
"As hard of a loss it was for us to take, there's another train coming down the track in Louisiana Tech," Hawai'i head coach Bob Nash said.
Fittingly, it will be a matchup of two of the better rebounding teams in the WAC. Hawai'i leads the WAC with 14.1 offensive rebounds per game; LaTech is second with 12.9.
The Bulldogs have been one of the surprise teams in the country this season.
"Like any good team, we're disappointed with any loss," LaTech head coach Kerry Rupp said. "We bounced back from losses before and we just have to show we can do it again in a tough place."
LaTech arrived in Honolulu yesterday afternoon and opted to practice at Hickam Air Force Base instead of the Sheriff Center.
"We wanted to get it done early," Rupp said. "Make sure we're rested for (today's) game."
The Bulldogs have a fabulous five in the making, as all five starters are averaging double-figure points.
The leader is Kyle Gibson, a 6-foot-5 senior guard who ranks 10th in the nation in scoring with 21.7 points per game.
"He can score in a variety of ways, that's what makes him a very good player," Rupp said.
Nash described Gibson as "one of the best pro prospects in our league."
The Bulldogs have another NBA prospect in 6-11 center Magnum Rolle. He is averaging 13.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game and leads the WAC with 48 blocked shots.
Today's game could also be a battle of attrition. The Bulldogs often use just six or seven players per game.
Hawai'i often relies on seven or eight players per game, although Nash said that could change tonight.
Junior guard Dwain Williams will miss his third consecutive game while attending the funeral of his cousin in California.
Starting guards Jeremy Lay and Hiram Thompson have played marathon minutes in Williams' absence.
"I rather play 40 minutes than not play at all," Thompson said. "You just have to stay strong mentally and play smart."
Nash said forwards Flemings and Adhar Mayen could see time in the backcourt, and reserve Leroy Lutu Jr. could also see extended action.
Despite the last-second loss to New Mexico State, the 'Bows remain upbeat.
"I think we showed that we can play with any team in the WAC," Thompson said. "We just have to cut down some of our mistakes. A win over the first-place team here would be huge."