’Bows: Getting Hot At The Right Time

Bobby Curran
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Friday - February 09, 2007
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The recent road trip for the University of Hawaii basketball team saw the unit run the gamut of human emotions, and provided a valuable lesson in the parts of sport that are outside a team’s control.

First, the team traveled to Fresno State to play a physically gifted but erratic Bulldog team. Wins at Fresno have been rare for any visitor; the Bulldogs were 12-1 when Hawaii arrived to play.

UH played hard-nosed man-to-man and held Fresno State to 12 points in the first half, its lowest total in years. The second half was mostly survival - Fresno couldn’t hit a three-pointer but wouldn’t stop jacking them up, eventually finishing 1-24 from long range, and Hawaii kept it interesting by committing 15 turnovers in the second half.

UH finally prevailed, 54-42, and people streamed out of the Save Mart Center talking about the ugliest game they had ever seen.

“Sure it was ugly,“says UH head coach Riley Wallace,“but at the same time it was so beautiful.”

Beautiful because Hawaii had won a conference road game for the first time all year, despite Matt Lojeski and Bobby Nash suffering from flu symptoms that left them weak.

The team then bused nearly six hours to take on 13th ranked University of Nevada. Not only was Nevada 11-1 at home, but Hawaii has never beaten them there. The game was being played to a national television audience anxious to watch All-American Nick Fazekas, a 6-foot-11-inch power forward with an inside-outside game that produces 20 points and 11 rebounds a game.

Hawaii came out with some intensity, and with their revamped manto-man stayed right with Nevada. Twice the Rainbow Warriors fell behind by 10 points; both times they clawed right back. The sellout crowd was looking for the Wolfpack to close out Hawaii, and the arena was incredibly loud. Hawaii trailed at the half, 40-33. The second half was much like the first, but the Rainbow Warriors could not get to the foul line. They were 2-5 in the first half, and would not shoot a single free throw in the second.

Meanwhile, Nevada was enjoying the best night from the line in college basketball this year, going 20-21. The Rainbow Warriors survived a brilliant six-minute stretch by All -WAC candidate Marcellus Kemp, who scored 14 straight points. Hawaii was getting a brilliant performance from Ahmet Gueye, who matched Fazekas point for point and board for board. Matt Gibson, suffering a monster head cold, raised his game and finally Hawaii pulled within one with 28 seconds to play. UH worked the ball up, and Nevada, with fouls to give, tried to foul Gueye. Fazekas grabbed his jersey, no call, spun him around, still no call, and as he started to throw Gueye to the ground, Gueye threw up an off-balance shot that went in as the whistle blew. The officials conferred and signaled the basket good, and Gueye walked to the foul line with Hawaii up one with 5.8 seconds to play.

Nevada coach Mark Fox went berserk, stamping his feet, banging the scorer’s table, and ripping off his jacket. While the teams were in a time out, the officials conferred again and decided that Gueye had been fouled before the shot, and took the Hawaii basket away. Unbelievable and, to anyone’s knowledge, unprecedented.

Hawaii now had to inbound behind by a point. Gibson had a shot blocked, Gueye tried to tap it while being pummeled - no call - and P.J Owsley grabbed the ball and put it in as the red light signaling game’s end came on.

After a review, the officials decided the shot was late, giving the win to Nevada, this despite the fact that the red light came on with 0.3 seconds left.

The Hawaii players were in shock, many were in tears. They had just played their grittiest game of the season and had the win taken away.

“For what went down,” says Wallace, “they were wrong on the call. They didn’t blow the whistle until the third part of a three-part foul, and the shot could have counted. No matter what comes out of the WAC office, they did not blow the whistle at the time of the jersey grab.”

“When we watch the tape,it’s hard to find anything good from it because we won that game.”

One thing is for sure. Hawaii is now playing its best basketball of the season, and the last thing Nevada wants is to play Hawaii in the upcoming WAC tournament. The Rainbows are hot at the right time.

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