'Bows must survive rigors of road trip
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
It will be all about survival this week on the road for the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team.
The Rainbow Warriors are scheduled to depart tomorrow morning for a two-game road trip. They will play at San Jose State on Thursday, and then at Nevada on Saturday.
After back-to-back heartbreaking home losses to the top two teams in the Western Athletic Conference, the 'Bows are 9-11 overall and in seventh place in the conference at 2-5.
Just about halfway through the WAC season, goals have been adjusted for Hawai'i.
"Our goal right now is to try to make the WAC Tournament," Hawai'i head coach Bob Nash said.
In effect, that means staying out of ninth place in the nine-team WAC.
At the end of the regular-season, the top eight teams will advance to the WAC Tournament at Reno, Nev. The ninth-place team will sit home alone.
"We just want to get a win," senior forward Roderick Flemings said. "We have to let this go and try to get to San Jose and get a win, get two more wins. That's all we can do — get back to practice and try to get two wins on the road."
Two teams are currently below Hawai'i in the WAC standings. Idaho is in eighth place at 1-5, and Boise State is in ninth at 0-7.
Despite its recent setbacks, the 'Bows appeared to gain a bit of confidence. Second-place New Mexico State beat Hawai'i, 71-69, on a last-second shot; first-place Louisiana Tech beat the 'Bows 65-60, but needed clutch free throws to hold off a late Hawai'i charge.
"We know we can play with the best if we do it the right way," Nash said. "If we get another guard healthy and back with us, that gives us a little more firepower from the perimeter."
The 'Bows have played three consecutive games without junior guard Dwain Williams, who is considered the team's best 3-point threat. He is in California for the funeral of his cousin.
In the last two losses, the 'Bows have gone 6 of 32 (18.8 percent) from 3-point range. They shot a season-worst 1 for 13 (7.7 percent) in Saturday's loss to LaTech.
Without Williams, juniors Jeremy Lay and Hiram Thompson have played marathon minutes in the backcourt.
Lay played 40 minutes in each of the last two losses, and went 2 for 18 from 3-point range. Thompson — who is nursing several nagging injuries — played 38 minutes in each of the last two losses, and went 2 for 7 from 3-point range.
"I attribute that to these two guards having to play extended minutes," Nash said. "And at the end of the game, maybe they don't have their legs under them as much as some of those other guys."
Williams is expected to join the team on this road trip, although his playing status is still in question because he has missed more than a week of practices.
"Realistically, he hasn't done anything over the last week or so, and so I don't know if that would be the best thing at this point and time," Nash said.
In any case, the 'Bows will be taking on a resurgent San Jose State team on Thursday. Hawai'i defeated the Spartans, 68-67, on Jan. 17 in Honolulu.
Since then, the Spartans upset LaTech and New Mexico State. San Jose State is 11-8 overall and tied for fourth in the WAC at 4-3.
Hawai'i committed a season-low five turnovers in the loss to LaTech. It was fewest turnovers by a Hawai'i team in its last 63 games, a streak dating to January 2008.
Senior forward Brandon Adams is averaging 11.9 points and 7.7 rebounds per game and has a .585 field goal percentage in Hawai'i's seven WAC games. Prior to the start of the WAC, he was averaging 5.2 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.
University of Hawai'i Letterwinners Club executive director Erika Buder-Nakasone was awarded the 2009 Kane Fernandez Community Service Award during Saturday's game. Buder-Nakasone, a former UH cheerleader, handles the day-to-day operations of the club, which has more than 1,200 members.
The award is named for the late Kane Fernandez, who passed away in January 2001. He was one of the original members of the UH Letterwinners Club.