UH at WAC: 1 in, 1 can be
The University of Hawai'i men's basketball team would prefer today's showdown to become a slowdown.
The Rainbow Warriors play at Boise State with a chance to qualify for next week's Western Athletic Conference Tournament.
The game is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. (Hawai'i time) at Taco Bell Arena. It will be broadcast via radio on ESPN 1420 AM.
"We have to continue to play at our pace," Hawai'i head coach Bob Nash said. "When you go on the road, you try to ugly the game up. We can't get caught in a running game with Boise, because that's what they like to do."
Hawai'i is 10-18 overall and 3-11 in the WAC, including a 76-68 victory over the Broncos on Jan. 11 in Honolulu. Boise State is 13-16 overall and 3-11 in the WAC.
The teams are tied at the bottom of the WAC standings. At the end of the regular season, the last-place team will not qualify for the WAC Tournament.
If Hawai'i wins today, it will earn a berth in the tournament.
"We knew for a while that this game against Boise was going to be real important because of the way our season was going and the way their season was going," senior center Paul Campbell said. "We have to treat it like any other game, but we know what's on the line."
Both teams have struggled throughout the season, but bring a little bit of momentum into the game.
The 'Bows upset third-place Nevada, 74-63, on "Senior Night" in the Stan Sheriff Center last Saturday. It snapped a nine-game losing streak, and restored confidence in the depleted Hawai'i roster.
"Anybody can beat anybody in the WAC," junior point guard Hiram Thompson said. "And we feel like we're right there, too. That last game against Nevada — they're a good team and we beat them, so that showed us that we can play with anybody and we're going to take that attitude to Boise."
The Broncos scored an impressive road upset at Louisiana Tech last week, then played second-place New Mexico State close the entire game in a 95-92 loss.
"They're kind of like us," Nash said. "They're a good team, but they've kind of been stuck in the mud. We both look like we're starting to dig out of that mud now, so to speak. It'll come down to who can dig our further when we play."
When Hawai'i beat Boise State on Jan. 11, the 'Bows were practically a different team.
In particular, senior forward Brandon Adams was a reserve player, and Thompson was receiving valuable back-up minutes from junior Jeremy Lay.
Adams has since emerged as Hawai'i's most reliable post player, and Thompson is the only scholarship guard on the active roster (junior guard Dwain Williams remains on indefinite suspension, and Lay is out for the season following hernia surgery).
"You can still take things that we did that first game against them, but we are a different team now," Nash said.
Specifically, the 'Bows have been playing at a more deliberate pace because of their lack of depth. They have also become primarily a zone defense team.
Boise State has made adjustments as well.
On Jan. 11, 6-foot-9 center Kurt Cunningham and 6-7 forward Paul Noonan were starters. They have since been replaced in the starting lineup by 6-7 Daequon Montreal and 6-1 La'Shard Anderson, giving the Broncos a smaller and quicker lineup.
But Cunningham and Noonan still play key roles, and the Broncos have several options in their balanced attack.
Forward Robert Arnold, for example, scored 35 points in the loss at New Mexico State. He was averaging 10.4 points per game entering that game.
"Looking at their scores, they've been playing up-pace games," Hawai'i senior Roderick Flemings said. "We have to slow them down, not let them run on us. They're going to want to get us back for the last time, so we just have to stick to our game and not get caught up in theirs."
Much could depend on Flemings as well. The 6-7 forward scored 20 in the victory over Boise State on Jan. 11. He is averaging 23.8 points per game over his last four games.
"These are my last games with Hawai'i so I'm going to do what I can to help get us to the WAC Tournament," he said.
San Jose State will play at Idaho today in a WAC game that could affect Hawai'i's place in the WAC Tournament. A San Jose State victory would help Hawai'i's cause going into the season finale on Saturday, when the 'Bows play at Idaho.