FRESNO, Calif. » The University of Hawaii won’t have to worry about opening the Western Athletic Conference tournament against Fresno State.
After what took place last night, that might be a good thing.
Unable to match Fresno State’s early intensity, UH came out on the short end of an 85-70 final score before an announced 7,917. The loss halted the Rainbows’ five-game winning streak.
Instead of the Bulldogs, fifth-seeded UH will get No. 8 San Jose State in Wednesday’s first round at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. Sixth-seeded Nevada faces No. 7 Fresno State in the other opening-round matchup.
Had UH won the game, Fresno State and the Rainbow Warriors would have met again in the first round.
UH (18-11, 8-8 WAC) swept the season series against the Spartans, including a 77-71 victory Thursday night.
But junior guard Zane Johnson, who scored a game-high 21 points, knows that to advance in the tournament, UH will have to play better than it did last night.
"We came out flat, and that’s an understatement," Johnson said. "We did not come out ready to play, and we expect more out of ourselves and as a team.
"Some people might say this game didn’t matter as far as (tournament) seedings, but it mattered to us."
Freshman guard Bobby Miles said the loss rang a few alarm bells in the locker room.
"It’s a big wake-up call," Miles said, "but now’s the time to have it."
Fresno State (14-16, 6-10) wasted little time pouncing on its listless house guests, opening a 15-4 lead as 6-foot-10 center Greg Smith dominated Vander Joaquim and Bill Amis in the paint.
By the time Kevin Olekaibe got through draining three 3-pointers in rapid succession, UH suddenly trailed 25-10 with 10:18 to go before halftime.
Olekaibe went on to lead the Bulldogs with 17 points. Smith had 16 points and 16 rebounds.
Amis added 14 points and seven rebounds for UH. Joston Thomas had 10 points and seven boards.
"We didn’t have great legs early, and give Fresno State credit," UH coach Gib Arnold said. "They played really inspired. That’s as good as I’ve seen them play. … We were a step slow."
Defense and rebounding were the biggest sore spots. The Bulldogs outrebounded UH 23-9 in the first half and shot 51.7 percent.
Fresno State never let up, ending the first half in emphatic fashion when Tyler Johnson stole the ball from Trevor Wiseman at midcourt and passed to Tim Steed for a thunderous dunk with 4 seconds left.
Fresno State’s 46-28 halftime lead equaled its largest of the opening period. Smith went into the locker room with a double-double: 11 points and 10 rebounds.
The 46 points were the most UH had allowed in a half this season.
"We got their attention at halftime," Arnold said. "We changed the mood in there real quick. … But these guys have been great. They’ve responded to adversity very well this season."
UH picked up the intensity in the second half but couldn’t make headway.
Even when Jeremiah Ostrowski made a steal and layup to give the Rainbows some momentum, Ned Golubovic answered with a 3 to maintain Fresno State’s 20-point edge.
A jump hook by Joaquim with 12:20 remaining made the score 60-47. But that’s as close as UH would get until the Rainbow Warriors went into desperation foul mode.
"We knew we could make a run, but when we really needed to execute to cut it to single digits, we couldn’t," Miles said.
Following the game, the Rainbows boarded a bus back to San Jose, where they’ll fly to Las Vegas today.
By the time the WAC tournament opens Wednesday, UH will have been on the mainland eight days.
"I packed everything I had," Johnson said.
FRESNO STATE 85, HAWAII 70
Rainbow Warriors (18-11, 8-8 WAC)
Fresno State (14-16, 6-10 WAC)
Key — fg-a: field goals made-attempted; ft-a: free throws made-attempted; rb: rebounds; pf: personal fouls; pts: total points; a: assists; to: turnovers; min: minutes played.
Halftime — Fresno State 46, Hawaii 28.
3-point goals — Hawaii 6-17 (Johnson 4-9, Ostrowski 1-3, Barnes 1-4, Brumfield 0-1). FSU 7-12 (Olekaibe 3-5, G. Johnson 2-3, Golubovic 1-1, Shepp 1-2, Funk 0-1).
Steals — Hawaii 7 (Ostrowski 3, Amis, Johnson, Miles, Barnes). FSU 11 (T. Johnson 4, Smith 2, Wills, Shepp, Ryan, Olekaibe, Funk). Blocked shots — Hawaii 9 (Amis 4, Kurtz 2, Thomas 2, Joaquim). FSU 9 (Funk 4, Golubovic 2, Smith 2, Olekaibe). A–7,917.
|New Mexico State||9||7||.563||6||15-16|
|San Jose State||5||11||.313||10||15-14|
Fresno State 85, Hawaii 70
Utah State 72, Louisiana Tech 30
New Mexico State 77, Nevada 68
Boise State 66, San Jose State 51
Idaho 78, Seattle 69