Hawaii's defense does the job again, holding San Jose State to 31 percent shooting to earn a third win in a row
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 23, 2011
Shots haven't always fallen and the offensive execution hasn't always been spectacular. But what Hawaii has done, especially over its last three games, is defend.
It was enough to earn the Rainbow Warriors their third straight Western Athletic Conference victory with a 67-61 effort over San Jose State last night at the Stan Sheriff Center.
At the midpoint of UH's league schedule, UH (12-8, 3-5 WAC) is in seventh place among nine teams. That's a whole lot better than how things looked just over a week ago, when UH stared at the specter of another last-place finish after an 0-5 start.
The Rainbows protected a seven-point halftime lead and earned their first three-game WAC winning streak since 2008.
UH, the top WAC team in field-goal defense, hounded eighth-place SJSU (9-9, 1-6) into 31.1 percent shooting, a season-low, and harassed the Spartans' star guard Adrian Oliver into a season low in points with 10, 14 below his third-best national scoring average of 24.2.
At the other end, senior forward Bill Amis led UH with 20 points on 9-for-11 shooting, grabbed nine rebounds and had four of UH's season-high seven blocks. Sophomore forward Joston Thomas gave a gritty effort with 14 points and a career-high 14 rebounds for his first career double-double.
Now Gib Arnold's Rainbows have a week to prepare for first-place Utah State. And who knows? With the way they've defended of late and battled the Aggies to the final buzzer in a narrow loss at Logan, Utah, last month, anything is possible, especially at home.
"That's a really good win for us," Arnold said. "To win three in a row and a chance to play the marquee team in this conference ... if you're any kind of a basketball fan or Warrior fan, you gotta be excited for this game on Saturday."
On one of several poignant plays of the game, point guard Hiram Thompson punched out a long rebound to a streaking Joston Thomas, who caught a downfield block from Zane Johnson and stuffed home an emphatic tomahawk dunk. The crowd of about 4,500 erupted as UH took a 49-42 lead.
Thomas was modest about it.
"Hiram tipped it off and I was just on the break. I dunked it," he said nonchalantly. "It was cool ... I think it was a good defensive play on our behalf."
"That was a great play," chimed in Amis with a shake of the head.
SJSU pulled back within three points, but freshman forward Trevor Wiseman converted a three-point play after two huge hustle rebounds, again fending off the visitors.
The Spartans got to within 53-52 on a Justin Graham baseline jumper with 6:53 to play. But UH rallied with a 7-1 run, punctuated by a Thomas tip-dunk. SJSU wouldn't get another field goal until the final minute.
SJSU stayed in it behind some inspired play by Graham, the senior point guard who's excelled against Hawaii his entire career. He scored 20, but no other Spartan had more than 12.
"We just played team defense," Amis. "Coach gave us our defensive assignments, and told us what we had to do. They have a three-headed monster (Oliver, Graham and Keith Shamburger) ... we really tried to key in on them."
The leading scorers for both teams, Zane Johnson for UH and Oliver for SJSU, were kept in check. Johnson had five points at halftime (finishing with eight) and Oliver, coming off a two-game absence from concussion-like symptoms, went without a field goal until 17:52 to play in the game.
Oliver was obviously out of his comfort zone. That could be partially explained by his recent absence, but it was more than that. Arnold gave Johnson credit for getting into the Spartan star.
"Kid comes in averaging 24 and he gets 10. You gotta give credit where credit is due, and Zane guarded him," Arnold said. "At times we can be relentless. I think defensively we were very good tonight."
Shamburger, a former UH recruiting prospect, scored 12 points on 3-for-13 shooting. Frustration was etched on his face late in the game when his drives were cut off and contested.
"We missed some free throws and they got some separation and they stayed aggressive, which is a credit to them," SJSU coach George Nessman said. "They got a lead but they stayed aggressive with their lead and it was a classic conference battle where both teams were fighting as hard as they could and Hawaii was just a little better than us tonight."
|New Mexico State||4||3||.571||3||10-11|
|San Jose State||1||6||.143||6||9-9|
Halftime -- Hawaii 31, San Jose State 24.
3-point goals -- San Jose State 5-15 (Shamburger 3-6, Douglas 1-2, Graham 1-4, Oliver 1-3). Hawaii 3-16 (Johnson 2-9, Ostrowski 1-2, Thompson 0-2, Barnes 0-3).
Steals -- San Jose State 5 (Oliver 2, Shamburger, Douglas, Ballard). Hawaii 3 (Johnson 2, Thompson). Blocked shots -- San Jose State 2 (Shamburger, Ballard). Hawaii 7 (Amis 4, Joaquim 2, Thomas). Officials -- Randy McCall, Bob Staffen, Mike Giarratono. A--NA.