Rainbows fend off Bulldogs, 88-77

Just call the silencer, the zonebuster what he is: Game Cube. Mike Kuebler stepped up again, scoring 29 points. Along with Carl English's 30, the Rainbows overwhelmed league leader Fresno State Monday night.

Rainbows knock off
Fresno State, 88-77

English, Kuebler spark
Hawaii's offense

By Paul Honda
Senior Writer
Monday, Jan. 14, 2003

HONOLULU -- For one half, Hawaii's version of GameCube carried the weight.

Then English class began, and the Rainbows excelled en route to an 88-77 victory over front-running
Fresno State 88-77 Monday night.

Mike Kuebler poured in 21 of his 29 points in the first half, and Carl English tallied 23 of his game-high 30 points after intermission to lead

A robust crowd of 7,891 enjoyed a productive, if uneven performance by
Hawaii (11-2), which is now tied for the lead in the Western Athletic Conference with Fresno State (11-3) at 4-1.

Fresno State came to the islands with an RPI of 21. "I know some of their guys, so it feels good to win. It's our house," English said. "I love playing Fresno. It's just one of those rivalries. This helps us a lot. Every night, we get someone different to step up. We've got a great overall team."

Carl English and Mike Kuebler find a stat that leaves a sour taste.

Tony Akpan scored 10 points off the bench for the Rainbows, who got a combined eight points from starters Haim Shimonovich and Phil Martin. Shimonovich, a 6-foot-10 junior, grabbed 10 rebounds and delivered five assists, while Akpan hustled for six caroms.

Damon Jackson led
Fresno State with 21 points. Noel Felix and reserve guard Terry Pettis added 14 each, and Rolando Todd tallied 10 points. No Bulldog had more than four rebounds.

Veteran Rainbows' head coach Riley Wallace was pleased with the offensive output, but it was defense that stoked his fire. "As long as my guys come out to play defense, they'll find offense," he said.

It was a crucial win for
Hawaii, which has now won 22 in a row at home. "This really hurt them. They really wanted this game," UH head coach Riley Wallace said of the Bulldogs. "They fly to San Jose, and then to their game at Dallas. I guess it was cheaper that way."

The streak, he added, is notable for a very simple reason. "People may think we don't think of things like that, but we do," Wallace said.

English agreed. "The streak gives us confidence. We feel like nobody can come here and beat us. If we could take it on the road, we'd be tough," he said. 

Coach Ray Lopes' Bulldogs visit SMU Thursday and Louisiana Tech Saturday. The Bulldogs, unbeaten at home like UH, is now 1-3 on the road.

The primary reasons for
Fresno's struggle Monday were Kuebler, the "GameCube," and English. Kuebler scored 21 points in the first half, including 6-of-9 shooting from 3-point range, to carry Hawaii to a 42-35 lead at intermission.

The Rainbow crowd, growing more fanatical each season, was a factor. "I started out hitting a couple of shots, and they start yelling. We go into halftime, and the adrenaline is going so fast," Kuebler said. "I didn't even remember what's going on."

Kuebler's 3-pointer from the left corner with 2 seconds left in the half came off a pass from Mark Campbell. "That had to be a heartbreaker," Wallace said. Kuebler's father has been in town, visiting from
Oregon, for Hawaii's recent homestand of three games.

Kuebler's hot shooting didn't surprise English or Wallace. "I've been trying to get him to shoot more, but that last shot, he had no choice," Wallace said.

"(Travis) DeManby's following me all around, and (Kuebler) just hit five in a row," English said. "I'm thinking, what the hell is he doing following me?"

While Kuebler, a lightly-recruited junior college transfer who is turning into a scoring machine, shot 7 of 11 from the field. The rest of the team shot 7 of 20 from the field before halftime.

Kuebler's effectiveness was pronounced because of
Fresno State's mix of defenses. "When they came out in that zone, my eyes lit up," the junior guard said. "Time to be the zonebuster."

With the Bulldogs back to a man defense -- and with more attention on Kuebler -- the lanes opened up for
Campbell. The point guard overcame early turnover problems to score nine points in the second half. He finished with six assists and seven turnovers.

Mark Campbell (right) plays defense against Fresno State guard Terry Pettis.

After Kuebler's scoring spree, the rest of the Rainbows -- i.e. English got hot - picked up the slack in the game's most critical run.
Fresno State pulled within 50-46 on Damon Jackson's 3-pointer from the left wing. Hawaii switched into its flex motion offense and reeled off a 12-3 blitz.

Campbell delivered an inbounds pass to English for an open 3-pointer from the corner. Moments later, Shimonovich kicked the ball out to Campbell, who was left unattended in the left corner. The senior drilled his only 3-pointer of the night to extend Hawaii's lead to 12 with 14:02 remaining.

After Tony Akpan hustled for an offensive board and left-handed putback, English pulled up for a 17-foot jumper from the baseline to give
Hawaii a commanding 62-49 lead with 11:53 left.

Fresno never backed down, cutting back into the lead each time the ‘Bows threatened to pull away. Terry Pettis sank a trey from the right wing and hustled downcourt for a follow shot on the break to spark an 8-0 run that brought Fresno State within 71-63 with 5:20 to go.

The Bulldogs got no closer. English, who sank all 10 of his free-throw attempts, sank a pair of foul shots, while Campbell hit 4 of 4 as Hawaii took a 77-63 lead.

English, denied opportunities for much of the game, continued his scoring onslaught, pulling up for another 17-footer from the baseline to beat the shot clock. He added four more free throws and a breakaway layup on a long pass from Shimonovich as the Rainbows won going away.

Fresno didn't play badly, committing just 13 turnovers (Hawaii had 19) and shooting 48 percent (29 of 60). But the Bulldogs were just 7 of 23 from 3-point range and 12 of 19 from the free-throw line.

Hawaii finished 58 percent from the field (28 of 48), including an astounding 82 percent (14 of 17) in the second half. The Rainbows connected on 11-of-19 3-point attempts (58 percent) and 21 of 25 tries from the foul line (84 percent).

English, 1 of 6 in the first half, connected on 7 of 7 in the second half.

"They tried to take Carl out of his rhythm, but you can't hold him down for a whole game. He'll find his points," Wallace said. "And he guarded Jackson, their best scorer."

Hawaii coach Riley Wallace reflects on a win over Fresno St.

Kuebler, who scored a season-high 30 two weeks ago in the Rainbow Classic final against
Butler, was a little-known guard since high school. "I don't think Fresno knew about him," Wallace said. "But if you talk to (assistant coach) Jackson Wheeler, he's not surprised. (Mike) has blonde hair, blue eyes, but don't let that fool you."

English shot 8 of 13 from the field, including 4 of 6 from the arc. Kuebler sank 10 of 15, finishing 6 of 9 from 3-point range.

The Rainbow's pre-game meal of chicken, potatoes and pasta won't change for a while. "Coach doesn't want to change anything," Kuebler said. "He's kind of superstitious."

For now, until the rest of the WAC catches wind of
Hawaii's secret weapon, Kuebler is happy to be ignored -- by opposing defenders, at least. "I don't have to be in the limelight. I'll stay in the shadows and shoot 3s," he said. "They gotta give Carl respect. He's one of the best players in the WAC, if not the best."

The Rainbows committed 19 turnovers, far more than the 12 Wallace finds acceptable against top teams. Also, English and Kuebler played all 40 minutes.

"I gotta find two-minute breaks for them each half. If the game had gone on longer, we might've had some trouble," he said.

Wallace spoke with former
Fresno State coach Jerry Tarkanian earlier in the day. "He said this would be a make-or-break kind of game for them. They needed this win," Wallace said, referring to the Bulldogs' road itinerary.

Fresno State's early defensive pressure, Wallace added, began with Tarkanian's teams. "We run an all-new offense now; Tark caused that. He was so good defensively," Wallace said. "A few years ago, that early pressure would've bothered us. Fresno State is very well-coached. (Lopes) is doing a good job."

The game was a war at times, with bodies flying all over the court, but there was virtually zero trash-talking -- a significant difference from
Fresno State teams of yesteryear. "They take on the personality of their coach," Wallace noted. "Tark's teams had more freedom on offense, and that made them very hard to guard, but this system is better for who they have now."

Do you know the way to …

Hawaii goes on the road next; the Rainbows are 1-2 away from the islands. The ‘Bows play at San Jose State Saturday before flying to Fresno for a rematch Thursday, Jan. 23. "It's gonna be tough when we go there," English said.

Finding the winning touch away from home is something Wallace doesn't want to get obsessed with. "It's not something I can do. They have to do it collectively as a team. They have to take the energy of our fans here," he said. "In
San Jose, they drew 700 fans to their last home game, so we've gotta self-motivate ourselves. Phil Johnson is a good coach."

Conference Call

The officials -- Jim Bannowsky, Brian Sorenson and Bryan Barr -- met for two minutes at midcourt to discuss a call in the lane late in the second half.

Officials gather to discuss a key call late in the game.

Damon Jackson's pull-up 6-footer in the lane drew contact from Phil Martin, who seemed to have position in the lane. After the blocking foul on Martin was assessed, Wallace rolled his eyes and had a short comment for the referees. "I told them, ‘That's two replays the crowd has seen, and the boos got louder each time,'" Wallace said. "I knew they weren't gonna give up the foul."

Jackson made the ensuing free throw for a 3-point play, bringing Fresno State within 71-63 with 5:20 remaining. The ‘Dogs couldn't get closer, though, as Hawaii scored the next six points to stretch its way to victory.

Wallace wasn't dissatisfied. "The main thing is, they were consistent on both ends," he said. "The referee said, ‘I know you don't like the call, but I made it and you gotta live with it.'"

Monday Night crowd

The near-8,000 in attendance was solid for a week night. The Rainbows, though, are hoping for a sellout sometime soon. Only six home dates remain. "They love these fans," Wallace said of his players. "They want that sellout. They ask before our games, ‘Is this gonna be a sellout?'"

The prospect of building more interest -- more in-house interest -- is a puzzle he'd like to solve. "We might have to do more road games. That's what
Fresno does, and it creates more interest," he said. "But I'm not sure. Our program is built on TV, too."

UH games on the road are usually not televised by the host station, KFVE.

Potato, Potatoh

Last year's team relied heavily on the scoring punch of Predrag Savovic. "It's a different team with different weapons. We work harder, by far, on defense," Wallace noted. "They had the potential to blow someone out more last year. This team is more blue-collar. We're playing more intelligently."

Fresno Flyer miles

Fresno State's quandary might seem draining, but the Bulldogs chose it that way. They beat UTEP Saturday before flying to Hawaii for Monday's game. Then the ‘Dogs fly to San Jose en route to Dallas, and then on to Ruston, La.

"They could've come here in December when we had that 19-day stretch (without a game), but they wanted to play USF and get some early wins," Wallace said.

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