Saturday, January 6, 2001
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Posted on: Saturday, January 6, 2001

Rainbows will face SMU without injured Ostler

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

DALLAS — Deep in the heart of Texas, the Hawaii men’s basketball temporarily lost a part of its heart yesterday.

Senior center Troy Ostler returned to Honolulu last night, apparently too disheartened over a sprained left ankle that has hindered his performance for the past two weeks. That leaves coach Riley Wallace with 10 healthy players available for today’s Western Athletic Conference game at Southern Methodist.

"Troy has decided that he’s not helping the team," Wallace said. "So he’s going back (to Hawaii) to get the ankle X-rayed again, and then he’ll start a total rehab and start playing again when he’s 100 percent ready."

Prior to injuring his ankle on Dec. 23, the 6-foot-10 Ostler was averaging a team-best 19.1 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. In the three games he has played since then, he is averaging 4.3 points and 1.0 rebounds per game off the bench.

In Thursday’s 103-64 loss at Texas Christian, Ostler had four points and one rebound in nine minutes.

"He wanted to play, I wanted him to play, the trainers said he could play," Wallace said. "But he said he felt ineffective and felt like he was hurting the team. So if he’s not mentally ready, this is the best route. Hopefully, we’ll be better down the stretch when he is ready to go physically and mentally."

Ostler’s departure couldn’t have come at a worse time. Wallace said he planned to start Ostler, who is a co-captain, today in an effort to provide a boost to his team.

"I thought maybe he would feel more comfortable starting," Wallace said. "And that way Mindaugas (Burneika) could come off the bench and give us a lift if Troy struggled."

Instead, the 6-7 Burneika will start his fifth consecutive game in Ostler’s low-post position. Junior guard Mike McIntyre, Hawaii’s top reserve guard and 3-point threat, is also recovering from a sprained ankle that has kept him out of action for the last two games. He remains questionable for today.

"We’re a shell of a team right now," Wallace said. "The guys who are here really have to step it up."

SMU is 10-3, and won its WAC opener by 10 points over San Jose State on Thursday. The Mustangs are 17-2 in Moody Coliseum in the past two seasons, including 4-0 this season.

They also feature arguably the WAC’s best player in Jeryl Sasser. The 6-6 senior guard is averaging 18.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game.

He is one of four Mustangs averaging over 13 points per game. What’s more, SMU is out to avenge an upset loss to Hawaii in last year’s WAC Tournament that may have cost the Mustangs a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

"They’re probably better than TCU," said Hawaii forward Nerijus Puida, who will defend Sasser in the Rainbows’ man-to-man defensive scheme. "And they will probably be mad at us and come out hard."

SMU forward Willie Davis said: "We remember that loss because it really hurt. We want to get them back for revenge."

The Rainbows, however, have to do some healing of their own. Thursday’s loss to TCU was the second-worst WAC defeat in Hawaii’s 22 years in the conference.

"That was the worst it can get for us," said freshman forward Phil Martin, who led the Rainbows with 16 points against TCU. "That was embarrassing for the whole team, for the coaches, even for the fans back home.

"Win or lose, it’s important to show that we’re the team that played really well in the Rainbow Classic and hung with Tennessee, and not the team that gave up against TCU."

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