NIT: Hawaii finds pot of gold in Vegas

The Rainbow basketball team hammers UNLV in Las Vegas Wednesday night in the first round of the NIT.

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - The combination of guards Michael Kuebler and Carl English lifted Hawai'i to an 85-68 victory over UNLV, Wednesday night, in the first round of the Owens Corning National Invitation Tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Rainbow Warriors (19-11) advance to the second round and will meet Minnesota at a date and site to be determined.

Kuebler scored 19 of his team-high 21 points in the first half. The junior missed just one shot in the period (8-of-9) and hit three 3-pointers. English caught fire in the second half, scoring 15 of his 20 points after the break. The all-WAC first team guard also led the team in rebounds (6) and assists (5).

Behind Kuebler's hot shooting, the 'Bows shot 70 percent (21-30) from the floor in the first half while jumping out to a 48-33 halftime advantage. With the score tied at 18 midway through the period, Hawai'i went on a 25-8 run to build a 17-point cushion. During that run, Kuebler hit three treys and scored 11 points.

The Runnin' Rebels scored the first 10 points in the second half to cut the UH lead to 48-43 at the first media timeout. But English took over after that, scoring eight straight points over the next three minutes to build Hawaii's lead back to double digits. Despite UH's 38 percent shooting in the period, the team held its lead with proficient free throw shooting, converting on 18-of-22 at the charity stripe.

Nkeruwem Akpan added 12 points and four rebounds in his fourth straight start at center. Guard Jason Carter returned from a knee injury, which forced him to miss last week's WAC Tournament, and scored nine points in 10 minutes. Forward Vaidotas Peciukas came off the bench and added relief in the low post after forward Phil Martin and centers Akpan and Haim Shimonovich got in foul trouble.

Guard Mark Campbell had eight points and four assists but importantly held all-Mountain West Conference guard Marcus Banks in check. Campbell picked off three steals and forced Banks into seven turnovers.

Hawai'i will travel to Minneapolis to face the University of Minnesota on Monday in the second round game. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. Hawaii time and can be heard live on KKEA AM 1420.


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