UH long shot for WAC
By JORDAN RODRIGUEZ
Special to The Advertiser
BOISE, Idaho — Two men's basketball teams fighting for their postseason lives met last night at Taco Bell Arena.
Only the home team showed up for the second half.
The University of Hawai'i men's basketball team stumbled late in an 82-63 loss at Boise State, and may have fumbled away its chances at qualifying for next week's Western Athletic Conference Tournament at Reno, Nev.
Robert Arnold scored 19 points and Boise State blew open a close game by hitting eight second-half 3-pointers. The Broncos went from the backseat to the driver's seat — swapping places with Hawai'i — for the final spot in the WAC Tournament.
Hawai'i could have clinched a tournament bid with a win.
Instead, the Rainbow Warriors now need a lot of help as regular-season play wraps up tomorrow.
"It's disappointing," said Hawai'i senior center Paul Campbell, who finished with nine points and nine rebounds. "We knew coming into this game how important it was to come out and get a win, but we just didn't have enough effort on the defensive end to get it done."
The 'Bows still have a mathematical shot at qualifying for the WAC Tournament, but it could be a long one.
First, Hawai'i needs to win its season finale tomorrow at Idaho. Then, the 'Bows need San Jose State to beat Boise State, and Nevada to beat Louisiana Tech.
Hawai'i can qualify for the WAC Tournament only if those three scenarios play out.
Hawai'i is 10-19 overall and in last place in the WAC at 3-12. The 'Bows also dropped to 0-8 on the road this season.
Boise State improved to 14-16 overall and moved a game ahead of Hawai'i at 4-11 in the WAC.
The Broncos led 33-30 at halftime, then outscored Hawai'i 49-33 in the second half. Many of the Broncos' second-half points came on high-percentage layups and dunks or wide-open jumpers from the perimeter.
"In the first half, even though we weren't playing well, we kept the score down and kept shooters in front of us," Hawai'i head coach Bob Nash said. "In the second half, to their credit, they made shots and got some separation."
Roderick Flemings, averaging a team-high 16.6 points for Hawai'i coming into the game, was held to six points on 2-of-6 shooting, although he did pass for a team-high seven assists.
Nash said Flemings was battling flu-like symptoms that kept him out of the pregame shootaround.
With Flemings struggling, sophomore reserve guard Leroy Lutu Jr. led the 'Bows with a career-high 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Adhar Mayen (10 points) was the only other Hawai'i player to reach double-figures.
"I just wanted to give us some energy off the bench," Lutu said. "I was lucky to get some fast-break layups and kind of get us going offensively in the first half, but in the second half we were just sluggish defensively and gave up too many easy looks."
Hawai'i shot a respectable 46.4 percent from the field, but committed a costly 18 turnovers.
Boise State shot 54.4 percent from the field, including 58.6 percent in the second half. The Broncos finished 11 of 26 from 3-point range, including 8 of 15 in the second half.
Hawai'i tied the score at 33 early in the second half, but it was all Boise State after that. The Broncos used an 11-2 surge to take a 56-43 lead midway through the second half.
Hawai'i never got closer than 11 points in the game's final 11 minutes, and Boise State led by as many as 21 points.
Arnold and Paul Noonan each hit three 3-pointers for the Broncos. Forwards Daequon Montreal and Ike Okoye added 13 points apiece.
Arnold, Okoye and Montreal also contributed rim-rattling dunks that gave Boise State the momentum it never relinquished.
"Dunks mean two things," Boise State coach Greg Graham said. "One, it's energy and two, it means we are attacking the basket. We did a pretty good job with that tonight."
Now, Boise State is in control of its own destiny for a WAC Tournament spot. If the Broncos beat San Jose State tomorrow, they will qualify for the tournament.
Hawai'i is scheduled to depart Boise today for Moscow, Idaho. The 'Bows lost to Idaho, 59-52, in Honolulu on Jan. 2.
The Vandals, who are 14-15 overall and 5-10 in the WAC, qualified for the WAC Tournament last night with an 86-76 victory over San Jose State.
"We're just trying to stay optimistic," Campbell said. "We still have a chance, even though it's small. We'd prefer to have it in our own hands, but we don't, so we just have to play hard and hope for the best."