Rainbows rally for 81-78 win over Butler

Mike Kuebler, formerly known as the zonebuster with long-distance service, served notice Monday night. The junior college transfer had his finest game as a Rainbow, pumping in 29 points to help Hawaii rally past Butler, 81-78, to win the Rainbow Classic title.

 

Hawaii overcomes 21-point
deficit to topple
Butler, 81-78

Kuebler pours in 29, English adds 21
as Rainbows capture Classic title


By Paul Honda
Senior Writer
Monday, Dec. 30, 2002


HONOLULUMike Kuebler poured a career-high 29 points and Carl English added 21 as Hawaii rallied from a 21-point deficit to defeat Butler, 81-78, in overtime Monday night.

The resounding victory gave
Hawaii the championship of the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic before 7,905 at Stan Sheriff Center. The win over the previously-unbeaten Bulldogs can only help Hawaii's quest. "If we want national recognition, this is the kind of team we gotta beat," said English, who was named the tournament's most valuable player.

Veteran
Hawaii coach Riley Wallace beamed with pride. "This is my 22nd Rainbow Classic and this was one of the best championship games. I don't remember ever being down 21 and coming back. I'm proud of our kids, and of our fans who came out on a Monday night," he said. "They were great, never quiet and kept believing in our guys."

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,"
Butler coach Todd Lickliter said.


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
Hawaii's man defense with 12-of-24 shooting from 3-point range. The Bulldogs entered the final, frantic minutes of regulation, however, without any time outs. "We ran out of time outs. I did a lousy job," Lickliter said.

A multitude of fouls hurt
Butler at the end of each half, to boot.

"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
Hawaii. It was a good performance."

The Rainbows made 21 of 26 free-throw attempts (82 percent) while Butler made 12 of 14.
Hawaii dominated the glass, 39-23, grabbing 18 offensive boards to stay alive. 

Forward Duane Lightfoot made all nine of his field-goal attempts to lead
Butler with 18 points. Bruce Horan scored all 15 of his points on first-half 3-point bombs, and point guard Brandon Miller and Mike Monserez added 12 points apiece for Butler, which sustained its first loss of the season (10-1).


Brandon Miller

Hawaii improved to 7-1 and boards a 7 a.m. flight Tuesday bound for El Paso, Texas. The Rainbows will arrive at 9:30 p.m. "It's like coach said, in the beginning (of the Western Athletic Conference season), you don't want to go on the road with a loss," English said. "We're excited, but we have a job to do."

"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
El Paso," he said.

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
Tulsa, maybe," he said. "Butler will win a whole lot of games and they'll be in the NCAA tourney."  

English was joined on the all-tournament team by teammate Tony Akpan,
Butler's Darnell Archey and Duane Lightfoot, Bradley's Danny Granger and Western Kentucky's Patrick Sparks.

For
Hawaii fans, however, awards paled in comparison to Hawaii's first back-to-back Rainbow Classic crowns since the early ‘70s and the Fabulous Five era.

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
Butler center Joel Cornette on a layup attempt with three seconds left in regulation, preserving a 66-all score to force overtime.


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.


Butler, behind the hot shooting of reserve guard Bruce Horan, blazed to a 35-14 lead late in the first half. Horan nailed five 3-pointers as the Bulldogs went on a 31-8 run that silenced a normally combustible Rainbow crowd. Keeping Hawaii under wraps was feisty point guard Brandon Miller, who drew three charging fouls—two from Hawaii's leading scorer, Carl English. After the third offensive foul was whistled on Hawaii because of Miller's floppishness, the UH crowd was on Miller's back the rest of the night, booing him each time he touched the ball.

"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."

Hawaii chipped away, using a diet of flex motion and low-post entry passes to get Butler into foul trouble. Hawaii got into the bonus and finished 10 of 11 from the foul line in the first half. Conversely, Butler made just 2 of 2 tries.

Hawaii used a 10-0 run at the close of the half to pull within 37-26 at intermission. English, who sat for a few minutes because of the two early personals, sparked the rally with a pair of free throws and a layup off a feed from Shimonovich. It was one of Shimonovich's five assists.

Kuebler scored
Hawaii's last four points of the half on two foul shots and drive to the basket. It was a sign of things to come for Kuebler, who is a spot-up jump shooter and zonebuster—or was, until Monday night. Those four points triggered his 25-point second half and overtime, and many of those points came on penetration. "That rally before the half got us fired up," Salem, Ore. native said.

Kuebler's scoring explosion in the second half was the result of
Butler's attention on English. "They'd focus on Carl, so off my screen, I'm usually wide open," he said.

Defensively,
Campbell closed the lanes more effectively and slowed Miller after halftime. "Butler does a good job against your weaknesses. Our rotation wasn't good in the first half. We got that adjusted at halftime," Wallace said. "Mark didn't give their point guard as many opportunities to (drive and) kick it (out to 3-point shooters)."

Hawaii made two runs at Butler in the second half. The ‘Bows tightened up their man defense and got within 46-42 as Kuebler poured in eight points in less than six minutes. Butler settled down, however, and the high-flying Cornette, who had a thunderous, one-handed follow dunk in the first half, came alive. He rejected a shot in the post by Shimonovich and scored on a baseline drive as the Bulldogs went on a 7-0 run for a 53-42 lead with 10:45 left.

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.


Mike Monserez

After Miller swished two free throws,
Butler led 64-49 with 4:02 remaining, and a silent Rainbow audience could only moan with fading hope.

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
Butler into a temporary meltdown.

"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
Hawaii within 64-56 with 3:07 remaining.

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
Hawaii within 66-62 with 1:48 to go, and the Rainbow faithful were screaming at full throttle once again.

Monserez traveled in the open backcourt moments later, and Kuebler sank a free throw to cut the lead to three with
1:29 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 1:13 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
Hawaii rebounded. Shimonovich was hacked on the low post on an entry pass and went to the line for a 1-and-1. His attempt fell short, giving Butler life.

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
Rishon LeZion, Israel said. 

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
Butler a 69-68 lead with 4:11 remaining.

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.
Hawaii led 72-69 with 2:51 left.

After a pair of foul shots by Miller,
Hawaii stretched its lead to 76-71 on a pull-up 15-foot jumper by English and a running bank shot by reserve guard Jason Carter.

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
Butler for the first time. English's long pass to Akpan was nearly stolen, and Kuebler got the ball and was fouled. He sank two more free throws to make it 79-76 with 18 seconds to go. "I didn't hear anything. I knew I'd make those shots," the 6-5 junior said.

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
Hawaii's comeback. Wallace credited an assistant coach for initiating Hawaii's evolution into a new scheme. "You bring in a new coach (Bob Burke) with new ideas…we call him "Bumper" because he gets up close to you and talks," Wallace said of being sold on the idea of full-court pressure. "We really worked on it the last two weeks."

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.






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