Hawaii humbled by UNLV

December 24, 2009, 9:34 AM HST · Updated December 24, 9:34 AM
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By Fred Guzman

MauiNow.com

Any illusions that the University of Hawaii may have harbored about competing against quality basketball opponents evaporated very quickly last night.

The Rainbows missed their first 10 shots of the game, fell behind 24-7 early on and trailed by 25 at one point in the first half and 44-21 at intermission.

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As a result, just one night after having registered its best game of the season in an 84-71 win over College of Charleston, the Bows suffered through their worst outing of the campaign in a 77-53 loss to nationally 20th-ranked UNLV.

The semifinal loss in the inaugural Diamond Head Classic relegated UH to Friday’s 2:30 p.m. third-place game against a St. Mary’s team that was on the fringes of the Top 25 before suffering a 60-49 semifinal loss to surging USC. UNLV will face the Trojans for the title at 4:30.

Hawaii simply was overwhelmed by UNLV’s defensive pressure, turning the ball over 19 times and harried into shooting a miserable 34.1 percent from the field. Only Dwain Williams, who finished with 20 points, seemed comfortable shooting the ball. Rod Flemings struggled. So did Petras Balocka.

The loss snapped UH’s win streak at four games, dropping its record to 6-5. UNLV improved to 12-1, its lone loss coming against No. 15 Kansas State.

HAWAII BOWL: It’s good thing for organizers of the Hawaii Bowl that Southern Methodist qualified for its first post-season appearance in 25 years.

Without the presence of the Mustangs, today’s game at Aloha Stadium would be nothing more than an afterthought in the minds of fans in the Aloha State. The game will be aired on ESPN 550 starting with the pre-game show at 2:15. The kickoff is set for 3 p.m.

But with former University of Hawaii head coach turning around SMU in only his second season on the job, some interest has been generated in a game that desperately needs the presence of the hometown UH squad to be a viable attraction.

Hawaii fell short of the required seven wins to qualify for the game.

SMU of Conference-USA brings a 7-5 record in the game and, perhaps most importantly, a bigger following into the 3 p.m. contest.

Although Nevada has a better record, at 8-4, is a member of the WAC and Reno is located closer to Hawaii than Fort Worth, fans of the Wolf Pack reportedly purchased less than 200 tickets for the game.

Nevada is depleted by disciplinary and academic issues. Coach Chris Ault has suspended safety Duke Williams for the game and dismissed linebacker Andre Davis from the program.

The Wolf Pack will also be without star running backs Vai Taua and Luke Lippincott. Taua, who rushed for 1,345 yards, is academically ineligible. Lippincott, who ran for 1,034, is sidelined with a toe injury.

PREPS: The St. Anthony Invitational came to a close last night, with Mid-Pacific Institute of Oahu romping to a 58-33 win over Harker Academy of San Jose, Calif., in the championship game. Kamehameha-Hawaii beat Hilo 64-53 for third place, Baldwin defeated Seabury Hall 49-43 for fifth and Kailua topped St. Anthony 48-24 for seventh. … In MIL action, Taylor Hiraga’s 24P led the KK girls to a 50-41 win over Baldwin. … In soccer, Baldwin swept a double-header vs. St. Anthony at WMS. The Bears boys defeated St. Anthony 3-0 and the girls won 11-0.

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