Hawaii facing long odds in Reno
The University of Hawai'i men's basketball team suffered a 23-point loss at San Jose State on Thursday.
Now comes the tough game of the road trip.
The Rainbow Warriors will play at Nevada today in a Western Athletic Conference game at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nev.
The game will be televised on ESPNU (Oceanic digital channel 219) starting at 5 p.m. (Hawai'i time). It will also be available via radio on ESPN 1420 AM.
In a trend that would make any Nevada casino proud, the visiting 'Bows have never won in 12 previous trips to Reno. What's more, Hawai'i is 0-4 on the road this season.
"Nevada is not going to cut us any slack because of where we are in our situation," Hawai'i head coach Bob Nash said. "They're trying to win games just like we're trying to win games."
The 'Bows are 9-12 overall and 2-6 in the WAC. They have lost three straight, including the 83-60 loss at San Jose State on Thursday.
"We have to forget about that game and get back on track," Nash said. "We have to try and put ourselves in the best position to battle a very good Nevada team."
The Wolf Pack is 12-8 overall and in fifth place in the WAC at 4-3.
The 'Bows are tied for seventh place, with an eye on Boise State in their rear-view mirror.
At the halfway stage of the WAC regular season, Hawai'i and Idaho are tied for seventh, and Boise State is ninth at 1-7. The ninth-place team at the end of the regular season will not get invited to the WAC Tournament at Reno.
"It's not going to get any easier," Nash said. "We're going to test our pride if we want to make that WAC Tournament."
The 'Bows traveled from San Jose to Reno yesterday afternoon, and then practiced at the Lawlor Events Center last night.
Meanwhile, the Wolf Pack has had a full week to prepare for the 'Bows. Nevada has not played since an 87-77 loss at Fresno State last Saturday.
Since the start of the 2003-04 season, Nevada is 95-18 at home, including 9-1 this season.
"First of all, it's one of the places where you have to deal with altitude," Nash said. "And then they have a good fan base. But I think the bottom line is they're a very good team year in and year out."
This year is no exception.
The Wolf Pack has two WAC Player of the Year candidates in forward Luke Babbitt and point guard Armon Johnson.
Babbitt, a 6-foot-9 sophomore, is a player with no apparent weakness. He is averaging 21.5 points and 10.0 rebounds per game, and has a .528 field goal percentage and .891 free throw percentage.
"He's one of the top scorers in the country, and every game out he gets you 20 (points) and 10 (rebounds)," Nash said. "You just have to try and limit him as much as you can."
Johnson, a 6-3 junior, is averaging 16.2 points per game and leads the WAC in assists with 5.2 per game.
Senior guard Brandon Fields (15.0 points per game) and senior forward Joey Shaw (10.6 points per game) are also averaging double-figure points. Nevada leads the WAC in scoring with 81.8 points per game.
"With them, it's pick your poison," Nash said.
The 'Bows are hoping to get a similar balanced attack to slow down the Wolf Pack. Hawai'i is averaging 69.7 points per game, while allowing 72.4.
"It's the same thing we always try to do — play at our pace and take care of the basketball," Nash said.
But the 'Bows will have to once again battle with a depleted backcourt.
Junior guard Dwain Williams will miss his fifth consecutive game following the death of his cousin in California. He is considered the team's top 3-point threat.
Starting guards Hiram Thompson and Jeremy Lay have played marathon minutes in Williams' absence, but both are struggling with long-range shots. In the last three losses, Thompson is 2 of 8 from 3-point range, and Lay is 2 of 20.
The 'Bows are led by senior forward Roderick Flemings, who is averaging 15.0 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. He has been the team's most consistent player of late, averaging 19.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game in the last three games.