By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
FRESNO, Calif. The biggest news surrounding the Fresno State basketball team this weekend was whether or not some of its best players were going to enter the NBA draft.
Well, that and how badly they wanted to beat Hawaii.
If only the Rainbows could have such problems.
"Were not concerned with what theyre saying or what theyre doing," Hawaii coach Riley Wallace said. "We have to take care of ourselves."
After riding through a snowstorm during a six-hour bus ride from Reno, Nev., to Fresno on Friday, the Rainbows must now weather another.
The Bulldogs and Rainbows are scheduled to play a Western Athletic Conference game today at 1 p.m. in a game that will be televised nationally on Fox Sports Net. Just 10 days ago, Hawaii upset Fresno State, 91-73, for its biggest victory of the season.
"That game was not a fluke," legendary Fresno State coach Jerry Tarkanian said. "They thoroughly out-played us in every aspect of the game."
Perhaps because of that, the local media in Fresno has been hyping todays contest as "a revenge game."
Several Bulldog players have ignited the issue with bold statements. Among the most prominent:
"We want to beat them by 50.# We owe them. They beat us by 18, we want to beat them by at least double that," guard Demetrius Porter said.
"Hopefully we beat them like we did (Texas El-Paso). And hopefully, coach dont pull us (starters) out at the end if we do get a big lead," center Melvin Ely said, referring to the Bulldogs WAC record 52-point victory over UTEP last month.
"They embarrassed us out there; we want to embarrass them over here," forward Shannon Swillis said.
Fresno State, which is ranked No. 23 by the Associated Press and No. 22 by USA Today/ESPN, has the potential to fulfill a blowout. Already this season, the Bulldogs have been responsible for handing three WAC teams UTEP, Tulsa and San Jose State their biggest losses of the season.
Whats more, the Bulldogs are 15-1 in their last 16 games, and sit atop the WAC at 8-1. The only blemish, of course, came in Honolulu.
"I dont think I need to remind our guys about it," Tarkanian said. "They know what happened: it was a total ass-kicking."
But after his players talked trash, Tarkanian tried to do some cleaning up. "Hawaii is the kind of team that concerns me," he said. "Theyve got some great shooters and they execute so well. They could easily beat us again."
Of particular concern to Tarkanian was Rainbow reserve Mindaugas Burneika, who scored a career-high 27 points in the victory over the Bulldogs. "We put him in the hall of fame," Tarkanian said.
"If they give me the open shots again, I will take them again," Burneika said.
Despite the impressive victory over Fresno State, Wallace has ordered his team to lay low. After Wallace and many of the Rainbows watched the Bulldogs statements on a Fresno news broadcast last night, he instructed his players not to respond in a similar fashion through the media.
"I like it, actually," Wallace said. "We beat them, but theyre the ones firing us up."
As proof, Hawaiis leading scorer Predrag Savovic asked Wallace: "Coach, if we beat them, please let me say anything I want."
In truth, the odds are in the Bulldogs favor. Fresno State has won 12 consecutive games in Selland Arena, where a 13th consecutive sellout (10,220 capacity) is expected today.
Just as telling, if not more so, the Rainbows are 0-6 on the road this season, including a 73-60 loss at last-place Nevada on Thursday. Hawaii, which is 10-11 overall and in sixth place in the WAC at 4-6, is the only conference team without a road victory this season.
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