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UH basketball team's rally falls short against NMSU

By Brian McInnis

LAST UPDATED: 10:02 a.m. HST, Nov 12, 2013

An old foe frustrated the Hawaii basketball team's late-night comeback bid.

New Mexico State dominated the interior and the Rainbow Warriors could not respond until it was too late in a 95-88 NMSU victory early Tuesday morning at the Stan Sheriff Center. UH dropped to 2-1 with its first loss of the season.

The final game of the 49th Outrigger Hotels and Resorts Rainbow Classic was also part of ESPN's College Hoops Tip-off Marathon. Western Michigan won the Classic title as one of three teams with a 2-1 record -- it won the tiebreaker by virtue of fewest points allowed.

"At the end of the game we kept staying aggressive and kept coming at them," UH coach Gib Arnold said. "But unfortunately we came up a little bit short. It wasn't our night tonight and give credit to New Mexico State."

NMSU led by 16 points with 5:29 to play but UH rallied furiously to within four in the final minute, despite starting point guard Keith Shamburger's ejection for his second technical foul with 7:50 remaining.

UH's last comeback hopes were basically dashed when UH called a timeout with no timeouts remaining, giving the Aggies two technical foul shots with 27 seconds left for a six-point lead. The 'Bows got no closer than four while taking fouls; NMSU point guard K.C. Ross-Miller made the Aggies' last 10 points, all at the free-throw line without a miss.

"It was a miscommunication amongst our staff about whether we had a timeout left or not," Arnold said. "I was under the impression we had one timeout left. We wanted to set up a press and sub in to get a defensive lineup in. We scored and I called a quick timeout. But again, there was a miscommunication between me and my staff. That's another learning point, just like the guys, as coaches. We talked about it after the game just to make sure we not only check the board but at each timeout check the main (score)book. We keep it in our own notes. But we just miscommunicated, weren't right on that.

"That won't happen again. We'll make sure of that."

UH forward Isaac Fotu was named tournament MVP after scoring 20 points with nine rebounds. Guard Garrett Nevels poured in 21 of his game-high 26 points in the second half, but that was not enough as five Aggies scored in double figures, led by guard Daniel Mullings' 21.

"I was just trying to leave it all on the floor," said Nevels, who shot 4-for-6 on 3-pointers. "I wasn't really worried at halftime (down nine) because I mean it's a whole 'nother 20-minute game. It's two halves. I was just trying to get everybody to leave it all on the floor. Just give it your all so you can try and fight back.

"We fought hard but it just didn't work out tonight."

A "Blackout" crowd of over 2,000 saw NMSU, the two-time defending WAC champion and one of UH's primary foils from the 'Bows' last days in that league, exert its will inside behind 7-foot-5 center Sim Bhullar, who finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. All six of Bhullar's field goals were dunks.

NMSU (2-1) shot a ridiculous 73.7 percent in the second half (14-for-19) and 57.7 percent overall. UH finished at 42.9 percent from the field after a dismal shooting first half.

UH pressed fullcourt often and did not turn the ball over much, finishing with nine to NMSU's 18, but the Aggies outrebounded UH 40-27. The 'Bows couldn't sustain their preferred running game for long.

The 'Bows tried to body up Bhullar and NMSU's other forwards but the 6-foot-8 forwards Fotu and Christian Standhardinger (nine points 3-for-12 shooting) clearly had their difficulties. UH doubled Bhullar at times and sometimes threw out a zone, but nothing worked consistently.

"He had the better of us tonight," Arnold said. "We needed to be more aggressive on him and play him a little earlier. Give them credit, they got him the ball at point-blank range."

Fotu looked to extend Bhullar out of the paint early by taking 3s, and made the first of his two-year career to open the game. But he missed his next three.

"Obviously it was hard," Fotu said. "He's like 350 pounds. It was hard getting around him. There's a lot of weight behind there. Just tried to use speed and footwork to get results. But it was tough to bang with those big guys. ... Nobody wants to be in the paint with a 7-foot-5 guy."

Five technical fouls were issued in a tightly whistled game.

UH had its difficulties dealing with NMSU's massive size and athleticism on the wings, connecting on just seven of its first 25 shots, and fell behind by 11 points in the first half before getting to within nine at halftime.

The Aggies went back up by 14 in the first eight minutes of the second half.

Bhullar threw down his sixth dunk of the game -- a reverse from right underneath the basket -- for NMSU's biggest lead of 71-56 with under 10 minutes to play.

Quincy Smith (15 points) and Nevels hit 3-pointers to get UH within 80-71 with 4:08 to play. UH got a steal and Smith made one of two free throws.

NMSU missed the front end on a 1-and-1 foul shot and Nevels was fouled on a 3-point attempt at the other end. He drained all three foul shots with 1:48 left to make it 82-77 NMSU.

Ross-Miller (17 points) pulled up in the paint for a cold-blooded jumper to end the immediate threat. UH got to within four with 37 seconds left on a Nevels free throw when Ross-Miller was issued a tech. But Ross-Miller made the first two of his 10 straight foul shots right afterward and UH got no closer than four one more time on a Christian Standhardinger layup.

"Those were the difference in the game, I think," NMSU coach Marvin Menzies said of his guard's foul shooting. "It could have been the difference. Just really pleased with his performance at the line."

Foul trouble for both teams in the first half meant plenty of lineup shuffling. 

Shamburger picked up two fouls in the first two minutes -- a normal personal foul and the second on a double-technical foul with NMSU's Daniel Mullings.

Smith picked up his third foul with eight minutes remaining in the first half, and Fotu went out with his second before halftime.

UH drew to within 40-34 when Davis Rozitis poked the ball away from NMSU in the open court and scored inside. But the Aggies came back with a 3-pointer by guard DK Eldridge, who was fouled in the act and completed the rare four-point play for a 44-34 lead.

The 'Bows shot only 33.3 percent in the period to 48.5 percent for the Aggies, and trailed 46-37 at the break.

It was Hawaii's sixth straight appearance in the Tip-off Marathon. UH is 4-2 in those games.

UH's Standhardinger was also named to the all-tournament team.

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allie wrote:
too many weak teams on gibby's schedule. Embarrassing
on November 12,2013 | 05:07AM
Rok888 wrote:
Allie, why do you read every sports article on UH when you hate UH sports? Why do you even waste your time and bother to follow UH spots?
on November 12,2013 | 09:16AM
mishtah wrote:
I am glad Gibby will learn from this. Even monkeys fall from trees. Gibby is a great on-court coach.
on November 12,2013 | 05:29AM
STARA25 wrote:
Ability to overcome taller, stronger, faster, more-skillful opponens will be even harder on the road (E.G. Wahine vs Sundevels)?
on November 12,2013 | 05:33AM
Descartes22 wrote:
It is refreshing that after four years Arnie the Younger is Webber-like in his knowledge about the proper number of time outs he has remaining in a close game. It is also wonderful that he has the team playing with composure because not getting whistled for T's is a sign of disciplined coaching.
on November 12,2013 | 06:29AM
WF808 wrote:
For the fans that heeded Gib's call to stay awake until 2:30 a.m., and the players who valiantly mounted a come-back effort, "my fault" would be easier to stomach than "miscommunication with staff."
on November 12,2013 | 08:08AM
Muraoka wrote:
WOW! He truly is a chip off the old block. Scary!!!!
on November 12,2013 | 11:49AM
roughrider wrote:
No excuse for calling time when you're without a timeout. That being said, in Gib's defense, during a radio interview after the game he said it was "miscommunication" among his staff, but quickly took personal blame for what transpired.
on November 12,2013 | 01:09PM
PCWarrior wrote:
Why should he worry? He's always out coached, and he blamed his staff for the "miscommunication." They've been together for what four years now and they just figuring that one out? But no worries, Gib got an answer for everything, schedules lemon teams every year so he looks good and he barely got a winning record, and his star player just walks off the court and like he could care less about the team or respecting his coach at the end of another BS tournament last year. He also doesn't want to report actual attendance figures to his recruits, a great way of establishing trust in a relationship, no? No worry, Ben "I going axe all my friends fo send me money" Jay going sign this guy up for more years.
on November 12,2013 | 01:23PM
Descartes22 wrote:
Pay to Play Jay is not only giving Mr. X's and O's more years but an increase in salary.
on November 12,2013 | 02:42PM
Muraoka wrote:
Yah, this is the same guy BTO praised as being "authentic." RIIIIIIGHT.
on November 12,2013 | 03:14PM
BTO wrote:
Didn't you see him giving Agena pointers at the Kalakaua clinic?
on November 12,2013 | 03:56PM
islandsun wrote:
Was a good opportunity for a quality win. At what point should a coach know coaching fundamentals? Wins over bottom RPI teams don't measure up.
on November 12,2013 | 09:34AM
Muraoka wrote:
A coach probably should know how many time outs he has when he is coaching his son at KAC. Not saying the Giblet should go coach at KAC though. Just go coach anywhere except at UH.
on November 12,2013 | 11:52AM
Bumby wrote:
Lessons to learn and the team will be better because of it. When a team shoots a torrid percentage it deserves to win like what NMS did.
on November 12,2013 | 10:18AM
jkjones wrote:
Im just curios about Gib's statement of being great before the team establishes itself as good. Now, does that term "great" apply to his "miscommunications?"
on November 12,2013 | 10:47AM
gobows wrote:
I like Gib's schedule....he'll look like a winner. who cares if its weak?....you still have to go out and play the games. go ask Chow if he'd like a weak schedule now?
on November 12,2013 | 10:59AM
PCWarrior wrote:
Would you be happier if UH played in the ILH?
on November 12,2013 | 01:27PM
Mana07 wrote:
UC "insert city name here"..kind of is like the ILH.
on November 12,2013 | 01:38PM
gobows wrote:
hard to beat anyone if the opponent shoots 73% from the field. I dont care who you are.
on November 12,2013 | 11:00AM
BTO wrote:
Ross-Miller is some player. His fiesty play tested the temperament of our guards. This NMS team has potential to go far into the NCAA tourney. Great first test for this exciting UH Team. I am really excited and enjoy watching this UH Team. The 2013-14 team brings back the memories of the UCSB team of the 2011. This UH team was built to compete with UCSB and LBSU. Both of which are solid programs with good coaches (Williams and Monson). I would like to have seen more man defense last night as I thought that it slowed them down more also the 3-2 with Rozitas was also very effective.
on November 12,2013 | 12:22PM
Muraoka wrote:
Really? Why would the Giblet build his team to compete with teams that are projected to finish in 2nd and 4th in the Big West? Did he not realize that UC Irvine would be the favorite with 2 7 footers returning? Is that why he chose to "go smaller and more athletic"? Oh well, just par for the course for the Giblet I guess.
on November 12,2013 | 03:22PM
gobows wrote:
all the techs proved costly
on November 12,2013 | 01:54PM
Isaac wrote:
Wow, really? Where were all you trolls when UH won their first 2 games by a combined 40 points?? Buncha haters with no lives, not their fault you hate your lives.
on November 12,2013 | 02:22PM
Muraoka wrote:
Been here ever since the Giblet was hired. I don't hate my life; in fact, I don't even HATE the Giblet. Just have no love for anything ARNOLD since Daddy left his mark here on many of us in the '70's.
on November 12,2013 | 03:10PM
BTO wrote:
Iolani, remember the Nash years??
on November 12,2013 | 03:51PM
WF808 wrote:
The earlier posts were not hateful toward the players. They merely observed the tragedy that this game may have been decided by a coaching error after a commendable come-back effort by the players. Unless Gib has vision issues, he is in just as good position to check, count or know how much time-outs he has without the risk of "staff miscommunication". Punahou or not, one would hope for a more honorable and direct acceptance of personal blame on the part of the head coach, period, especially a head coach who has just been given an extension.
on November 12,2013 | 03:21PM
hon2255 wrote:
Keith. Play your game play hard. Help your team. Don't get caught up with trash talking with other team ! Thus is your third yr in D1 ball. You should know better ! No more techs!
on November 13,2013 | 03:55PM
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