'Bows hope for sweep of Spartans
Much has changed in 11 days for the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team.
All the Rainbow Warriors want today is the same thing they got 11 days ago — a win over San Jose State.
Hawai'i will play a Western Athletic Conference road game against the Spartans at 5 p.m. in The Event Center in San Jose, Calif.
It will be broadcast via radio on ESPN 1420 AM.
"I think it helps when you're on the winning side," Hawai'i junior guard Jeremy Lay said. "If you beat a team before, you go into the next one with confidence."
The 'Bows beat the Spartans, 68-67, on Jan. 17 in the Stan Sheriff Center.
Since then, Hawai'i has dropped two home games and is 9-11 overall and 2-5 in the WAC.
The 'Bows are 1 1/2 games ahead of ninth-place Boise State (1-7 WAC) in the race to avoid the WAC cellar. At the end of the regular season, the ninth-place team will not be invited to the WAC Tournament in Reno, Nev.
Hawai'i's losses last week came against Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State — the top two teams in the WAC.
After losing at Hawai'i, San Jose State returned home and defeated both Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State last week. The Spartans are now 11-8 overall and tied for fourth place in the WAC at 4-3.
"We knew already that they were going to come at us hard because of the way the last game with them ended," said Hawai'i point guard Hiram Thompson, who hit the game-winning free throws with 2.1 seconds in the victory over the Spartans. "But then they went out and got two big wins, so they're playing like a different team now."
Still, the close proximity between games should make it easier for the teams to prepare for each other.
As Hawai'i head coach Bob Nash put it: "A lot of what they do is still in our mind, so it helps in terms of preparation time. Obviously, there's going to be adjustments on both sides, but at least we have a general idea of what to expect."
The main concern could be San Jose State guard Adrian Oliver. The 6-foot-4 junior scored 39 points in the win over Louisiana Tech and 22 in the win over New Mexico State. He was recently named WAC Player of the Week and earned a national player of the week honor from the United States Basketball Writers Association.
Oliver scored 20 in the loss at Hawai'i, but missed a crucial free throw in the closing seconds.
"He's going to be pumped up to get back at us," said Lay, who helped defend Oliver in the last meeting. "If he hits 39 off fade-away jumpers and off-balance stuff, that's fine. I just don't want him to get any easy layups or open looks."
The 'Bows arrived in San Jose on Tuesday night, and had all of yesterday to recover from the flight and prepare for the Spartans.
Hawai'i is 0-3 on the road this season. If there is a road game to win, this could be it.
The 'Bows have won five of the last six meetings with the Spartans in San Jose.
What's more, San Jose State ranks last in the WAC in home attendance with an average crowd of 1,513. The 'Bows are expected to have their fair share of supporters in attendance today, thanks mostly to California high school products Brandon Adams and Thompson.
"This is a place we've had success before," Nash said. "But we have to focus on the task at hand. We can't look at history or anything else. This is a new game and we have to concentrate on what we have to do to win this game."