deficit to topple
Kuebler pours in 29, English adds 21
as Rainbows capture Classic title
By Paul Honda
The resounding victory gave
Kuebler scored 25 of his 29 after halftime, scoring on a series of perimeter shots and driving layups. He also sank 10 of 11 attempts from the free-throw line.
"He mixed it up and did a nice job. He's a good player,"
Haim Shimonovich, Carl English, Mike Kuebler
Kuebler's breakout game won't be forgotten. "Coach (Riley Wallace) gets on me for not shooting," he said.
"Me, too," English added.
It was a tough pill to swallow for the Bulldogs, who patiently attacked
A multitude of fouls hurt
"We defended like crazy in the first half, but we got into foul trouble. If it wasn't for the free throws, it wouldn't have been a contest," Lickliter said. "They hit big shots. We both needed to get breaks. You saw two very good teams battle to the end. You're talking about a one-possession game at
The Rainbows made 21 of 26 free-throw attempts (82 percent) while Butler made 12 of 14.
Forward Duane Lightfoot made all nine of his field-goal attempts to lead
"They are going to win a lot of games," Lickliter said.
Wallace is pleased with his team's gradual improvement. "Each game, we've grown. That'll help us going to
The Bulldogs, a blend of veterans and youth, will rebound. "We'll move on. Golly, we're only 11 games into the season," Lickliter said.
"They're on the road playing their third game in three days. We had a night off (Saturday)," Wallace noted. "That helps."
Wallace expects the Bulldogs to do their usual dance in March. "They're the best team, by far, we've played -- maybe the best this year besides
English was joined on the all-tournament team by teammate Tony Akpan,
Haim Shimonovich was a steady rock in the middle for the Rainbows, scoring 14 points and grabbing 10 boards. The 6-foot-10 junior had just one blocked shot, but it was an absolutely crucial one. He rejected
FINAL MOMENTS -- Butler point guard Brandon Miller sets up a final play in regulation with the scored tied at 66. He eventually drove and fed Joel Cornette, who was rejected by Hawaii's Haim Shimonovich with three seconds left.
"They're good defensively. I won't get into that," English said of the Bulldogs' propensity for flopping. "We took them for granted in the beginning."
But after falling behind by 21 points, the Rainbows refused to fold. "That takes a lot out of you when they hit those shots, but we hung together. … We came back with a lot of intensity. We never gave up," said English, who shot 7 of 15 from the field, including 3 of 8 from 3-point range. "It shows the character of our team."
Kuebler's scoring explosion in the second half was the result of
The ‘Dogs got hot from the perimeter again as Notre Dame transfer Mike Monserez drilled a pair of 3-pointers and Avery Sheets rained in another.
After Miller swished two free throws,
The Rainbows then activated a full-court press—a new look that they've worked hard on in the past two weeks—and went on a remarkable run. Kuebler hustled for a follow shot and English drove and lofted up a shot that bounced off the back iron and trickled in. His free throw completed the 3-point play, and the press forced
"We haven't seen that kind of pressure like that all year," Lickliter said.
Kuebler saw the same effect. "Once we got the lead down to 15, we put the press on. You could tell they were having problems," he said.
Shimonovich went after his own miss for a layup, and after Darnell Archey missed a wide-open breakaway layup, Kuebler sank a 16-foot jumper from the left wing to bring
Miller, who went 10 of 11 from the line, submitted his only miss on the ensuing possession, and English came through with a 26-foot 3-pointer just before the shot clock expired. After a pair of foul shots by Monserez, English launched and swished a 24-foot trey to bring
Monserez traveled in the open backcourt moments later, and Kuebler sank a free throw to cut the lead to three with left. The Bulldogs then threw a pass to midcourt that sailed out of bounds, out of the reach of Kuebler answered again, driving past Monserez on the baseline for a layup and foul. Kuebler's 3-point play tied the game at 66 with to go, and Monserez fouled out. "I knew the guy would force me above the screen, so I drove all the way to the basket," Kuebler said.
"That's our ‘20 game,'" Wallace said. "When he comes off the double pick."
Archey, who did not make a 3-pointer during regulation, missed on an attempt from the left wing, and
Miller held the ball until eight seconds remained. He drove on Mark Campbell and dished to Cornette, but Shimonovich timed the shot perfectly and whacked it off the glass. Time expired as the Rainbows rebounded and cleared the ball out to midcourt. "I had the opportunity to shoot the free throws and missed. I'm just glad I had that blocked shot," the junior from
Kuebler, still taking the ball to the rack, drew another foul and swished home two free throws to give Hawaii its first lead since 16:33 remained in the first half.
Archey answered with his first trey of the game, an all-net shot from the left wing on a pick-and-roll with Cornette. That gave
Tony Akpan then stepped up, taking a bounce pass from Kuebler and sinking a 12-foot turnaround in the middle of the key. After Archey missed another 3-point try, Shimonovich scored at point-blank range as Cornette goaltended the shot.
After a pair of foul shots by Miller,
The ‘Dogs, however, wouldn't die. Miller drew a quick foul and sank two free throws. After English hit 1 of 2 foul shots, Sheets heaved a 25-foot shot from the right wing that hit all net, pulling the Bulldogs within 77-76 with 30 seconds remaining.
The ‘Bows then saw full-court pressure from
Miller drove the length of the floor and patiently hit a 5-foot bank shot, cutting the lead to one with nine seconds to play. English got the ball in to Kuebler, who was fouled with 6.8 seconds left. Kuebler nailed two more foul shots. After a Rainbow time out, Miller drove through midcourt, stopped at the top of the key, and was stripped by Carter. The ball bounced to the right wing as time expired.
The game had elements of an epic battle from the opening tip. Miller, who played the role of the hated villain, was exhausted and dehydrated after the game, unable to answer questions despite a good effort. "We're very disappointed," he said after playing 39 of the game's 40 minutes.
English's battle-within-a-battle with Miller never got inflammatory, but it was heated nonetheless. "No. 4 ran his mouth at the beginning, but not as much when we started coming back," the senior guard said. "He's a good player. He's the reason they were in the championship game. Mark did a hell of a job defending him."
Defense, as well as hot second-half shooting, triggered
English is a believer, as well. "This is my fourth year, and we just put it in this year. Coach has been yelling his head off at us in practice, and I was wondering why we're doing this. Now I know," he said. "The last minute was just like we do it in practice."
Wallace compared Monday night's clutch play by Kuebler and English to last year's squad. "It's kind of like how Carl, Savo and McIntyre picked it up for each other," he said.