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UPDATED: Warriors get well in win over New Mexico State

Bouncing back in a big and healthy way, the Hawai’i men’s basketball team got a huge boost from scoring leader Zane Johnson and starting point guard Miah Ostrowski Saturday night to upset Western Athletic Conference co-leader New Mexico State, 91-87.

An energized crowd of 7,346 at the Stan Sheriff Center watched Johnson return from flu-like symptoms to score a season-high 29 points — including seven 3-pointers — and Ostrowski return from a staph infection on his left leg to score nine points and dish out eight assists as the Warriors improved to 11-8 overall, 3-2 in the WAC. The Aggies had a six-game winning streak snapped, and fell to 14-6, 4-1.

Johnson and Ostrowski sat out Thursday’s 74-70 loss to Louisiana Tech.

“That loss hurt us just as bad, if not more, not being out there able to help,” said Johnson, who played 38 minutes Saturday night. “I felt better (Friday), so I knew I was gonna play tonight.”

UH led 44-34 at halftime and by as much as 71-52 after Hauns Brereton’s layup with 11:15 remaining, but New Mexico State made a furious late rally to close it to 89-85 on Wendell McKines’ putback with 11.6 seconds left. Shaquille Stokes then sealed the victory with two free throws one second later as the Aggies could only get a putback by McKines with 1.1 ticks remaining.

“This was as good a win as we’ve had since I’ve been here, considering the situation we were in and against a team that was playing very good basketball in their last few games,” said Warriors coach Gib Arnold. “I think the conference respects us, but we’ll have to do this again and again and again, especially with a tough road trip coming up. But when we are at full strength, we can compete with anybody on our schedule, I really believe that.”

After Thursday’s disappointing loss to LaTech, in which Arnold had said there “was no leadership, absolutely none,” Arnold held a team meeting and closed practice on Friday.

“I talked to them individually and as a group,” Arnold said. “We talked about what we did and didn’t do (Thursday), and what we needed to do tonight.”

New Mexico State featured McKines, a 6-foot-6, 230-pound senior who leads the WAC in scoring (18.6 points per game) and rebounding (10.5 rpg), and senior guard Hernst Laroche (12.1 ppg).

“I want to give our guys all the compliments, to come back from a tough loss and — in a day — execute a game plan that was very specific and very demanding,” Arnold said. “We played a box-and-1 on McKines, triangle-and-2 on McKines and Laroche, 2-3 (zone) … We played five different defenses, and for 36 minutes it looked pretty good. It wasn’t so good the last four minutes, but I’m pleased we were able to get up enough to sustain (the lead).”

Johnson drained his first 3-point attempt with 16:40 remaining in the first half to start Hawai’i on a 21-6 run that put the Warriors ahead, 23-11, after Davis Rozitis’ free throw with 8:20 left. The Aggies clawed back and closed it to 33-32 on Bandja Sy’s slam dunk with 1:32 remaining, but UH responded with an 11-2 run ignited by Thomas’ three-point play and capped by Garrett Jefferson’s two free throws with 11.4 seconds left.

McKines finished the first half with just two points and three rebounds, and the Warriors out-rebounded New Mexico State, 24-21, in the first 20 minutes, including 15 defensive boards.

Rozitis, a seldom-used 7-foot sophomore center, scored nine points and grabbed five rebounds in 14 minutes before fouling out with 1:55 remaining in the half. He played the bulk of the first half after starting center Vander Joaquim picked up his second foul just three minutes into the game.

“I think Davis was the MVP of the game,” Arnold said. “He came in and played big against their bigs, he played his heart out. I told him to keep it going, and if you foul out, you foul out. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone foul out in the first half before, but he did a great job.”

Johnson bookended a 15-4 run early in the second half with two more 3-pointers as Hawai’i went up, 63-46, in the first five-and-a half minutes, and then Brereton capped an 8-2 surge that made it 72-51 with 11:15 left.

The Warriors still led, 83-69, after a layup by Ostrowski with 3:06 remaining, but McKines answered with a 3-pointer to start the Aggies on a 14-4 run culminating in Sy’s 3-pointer that closed it to 87-83 with 26 seconds left. The run was fueled by a full-court press that resulted in several UH turnovers and transition baskets for New Mexico State.

“It’s a good thing we built on that lead (earlier),” said Ostrowski, who played 37 minutes despite being cleared to play only after a doctor’s visit Saturday morning. “We had problems with our press break, simple mistakes, but we gotta work on that. They’re a long team, they’re long and tall and they got their hands on lot of balls that we’re used to getting away with.”

Arnold suggested fatigue also might have been a factor.

“I think we had tired legs,” he said. “Those two guys (Ostrowski and Johnson) might have played too many minutes and you could see they got tired. But I’m more comfortable with them in there, and win or lose I want them in to finish the game.”

Joaquim and Stokes combined to make 5 of 6 free throws in the final 39 seconds and UH finished a solid 24 of 30 (80 percent) from the line.

Thomas added 17 points, nine rebounds and six assists for the Warriors. Joaquim added with 11 points and 10 boards for his sixth double-double of this season.

Sy led the Aggies with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Hamidu Rahman added 16 points. McKines, a top candidate for WAC Player of the Year, finished with 14 points and nine boards, although 10 of his points came in the final three minutes when the Aggies were scrambling to catch up.

New Mexico State entered the game ranked first in the WAC in rebounding, but the Warriors won the battle of the boards, 45-41.

Hawai’i will now hit the road for a game at defending league champion Utah State on Thursday. It will be the first of three consecutive road games for the Warriors. Following the game at Utah State, Hawai’i will play at Idaho on January 28, then at San Jose State on February 4.

The next home game for the Warriors will be on February 9, when they host WAC leader Nevada at the Sheriff Center. Hawai’i is currently in third place in the conference, trailing only undefeated Nevada (5-0) and New Mexico State (4-1).

“Every game is important in the WAC,” Ostrowski said. “We set our goals high, and we took a big step back on Thursday, but we took a big step forward tonight.”

(Game photos by Brandon Flores)

12 Comments

  1. Great win. Lots of energy last night. 🙂

  2. Nice video. Jealous of the person taking video; got a good view of the Rainbow Dancers huh. More video of them also please. 🙂

  3. Speaking of Rainbow Dancers, why is it that the number of male dancers keeps increasing? We don’t need more of them.. Sorry..

  4. Terrific win by UH. Thank you for the article and well-edited video. I always enjoy viewing the court highlights and press conference comments after a game.

  5. Great game Warriors! It should only get better from here! Keep working Hard. One Game at a time. Remember Anything is possible.

  6. Great win last night!! When healthy, UH has the ability to beat any team in the WAC.

    We did learn a couple key items this year…

    #1 Miah is vital to UH’s success going forward. What a difference in play when Miah is playing. UH does not have a back up point guard that’s capable of handling pressure and running the offense. Miah doesn’t look to score much, but he needs to take 5-6 shots a game to keep the defense honest (to prevent his defender from collapsing on Vander)

    #2 UH needs another 3 point shooter. Zane is a great shooter, but UH needs someone else to step up and knock down a few perimeter shots. If Zane can’t get clean looks, or when he’s not on the floor, UH needs other players to hit the perimeter shots to keep the defense from collapsing on Vander or Joston.

    #3 UH is very poor vs full court pressure. Miah is a good ball handler, but his lack of size hurts his court vision and he can’t pass over the top of defenders when he gets stuck. Coach Arnold will most definitely work on his press break offense this coming week. UH looks lost and disorganized at times and has struggled to beat the 10 second count several times when facing pressure.

    #4 UH’s toughest opponent has been themselves. Turnovers and inconsistent free throw shooting are the common elements when UH has lost this year. UH should be undefeated in WAC play this year. UH is good enough to overcome bad shooting nights from Zane or if Vander gets in foul trouble.

    #5 UH is a serious contender to win the WAC tournament (and punch a ticket to the NCAA). By moving to the Big West, UH will have a considerable size advantage over every team in the BWC. Since the Diamondhead Classic, Vander and Joston have been dominating the interior vs just about everybody and I don’t see any team in conference that can match their aggressiveness this year or next.

  7. Don’t forget next year UH adds Dressler/Fotu and Standhardinger inside. BIg west teams won’t be able to match up with UH’s big men.

  8. Great win….MIah, Zane and whole team, coaching staff…gotta work on those last few minutes press break and managing time outs…
    But Gib is right , a win, this is a good win…NMSU stable of athletes, however a good team can beat them here or on the road..

    Next year, without question, in addition to Shaq, whom Gib is grooming , Shaq hang in there…for point guard for next year…if he can score JC 6foot to 6foot 2inch, pass first, strong defender, good free throw shooter, high BB IQ. ..or even walkon , like Miah, but taller…man, BWC and top 50 look out in 2012-13.

    This year not finished, still goals: minimum 18 wins close out regular season, legitimate WAC tournament title, possible, get hot and stay hot top 1 ,2 or 3 finish…this team prove us wrong all the time…hey they , if healthy, mind body, etc. going for WAC regular season crown, and WAC tourney crown for no doubt. Why not Uncle Norm is going for it with Warrior football.

    Congrats Gib and boys: you have made fans of a new generation of UH BB .
    Thanks Dayton and staff sponsors, since early summer, late spring of 2011 till now, your coverage is right on and so much interest and followers of your site outside of Hawaii state 808 too.

    Mahalo, and keep on progressing team. Work on press break…
    Aloha. (Hey even, Riley’s teams in last few minutes had hard time breaking a really good scramble athletic press…nervous as ever,..Troy Bowe was good though, very strong..)

  9. I don’t mind if Davis fouls out every game before the first half if he can contribute like he did against NMS. Hope he remembers what he did and how he did it because he needs to bring that same intensity to the next game. His play really saved the team and allowed Vander to focus and be aggressive in the second half, resulting in a double double performance. Each game I see different players stepping up and contributing in a big way. We need all 10 key players contributing in some way. Like Shak. He may have played only a few minutes but he came through at the end with clutch free throws and ball handling. Does not matter how many minutes you play but whether you were effective in what coach wanted out of you when you were on the court. This team is starting to dial in to what Gib wants. No egos here but just a willingness to do your part big or small, bring 100% effort on what you were called to do, and help achieve a team victory. This is championship basketball.

  10. Awesome Win, for Gib and Co. ,a bit anxious at the end but , it was EXCITING .ROAD WARRIORS BACK ON THE ROAD THIS WEEK ,LET’S GET TWO MORE WINS!!!!!!!!!

    AND LET’S SEE SOME MORE OF ZANE’S ADVENTURES ON THE ROAD!

  11. great win.

    work on the press.

    …and davis great game but, please, please, please…that close throw it down, man.

  12. Davis played with no fear…and that was good to see.

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