Saturday, January 20, 2001
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Posted on: Saturday, January 20, 2001

Rainbows will try to crack San Jose State defense

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii men’s basketball coach Riley Wallace liked the look so much, he buzzed his hair again this week.

Without even losing a bet this time.

Much like his hair, Wallace is expecting a close shave tonight when the Rainbows play host to San Jose State in a Western Athletic Conference game.

"All you have to do is look at their history and see that they play everybody close," Wallace said of the Spartans. "They’re a good defensive team, and they stay in games from beginning to end."

As proof, San Jose State leads the WAC in defense, allowing 60.9 points per game while holding opponents to a .411 shooting percentage. By comparison, the Rainbows are scoring 70.4 points per game, and shooting .454.

"We feel like if we can defend and rebound hard, we can stay in games even if we don’t shoot well," San Jose State coach Steve Barnes said.

But while the statistics have been productive, the end result has not been. San Jose State is 8-7 overall, but 0-4 in the WAC, although those four losses have been by an average of 6.8 points.

"They don’t give up any easy baskets and make you work for every shot," Wallace said.

To be sure, Wallace put the Rainbows through several late-game-situation drills during practice this week. Sometimes, they worked on producing a winning shot. Other times, they tried defending against one.

"You want your guys mentally ready for that situation," Wallace said. "And San Jose is just the kind of team that will put you in that situation."

Hawaii, which is 7-8 overall and 1-3 in the WAC, will start the same lineup — David Hilton, Predrag Savovic, Nerijus Puida, Phil Martin and Troy Ostler — that is 4-1 this season.

What’s more, Ostler’s sprained left ankle is almost completely healed for the first time in almost a month, Savovic has scored 49 points in UH’s last two games, and Puida has apparently broken out of his midseason shooting slump.

"We’re OK, but we still can get much better," Savovic said. "We’re starting to play together, but it’s not all there yet."

Most notable, junior Mike McIntyre is expected to miss tonight’s game after reaggravating a sprained right ankle. When healthy, McIntyre is one of the team’s top 3-point shooting threats, and can provide valuable relief for Hilton at point guard.

"But he hasn’t practiced, so there’s no sense playing around with it during the game," Wallace said. "We’ll rest him and wait until he’s 100 percent ready to go."

In his place, junior Ricky Terrell is expected to see reserve duty at point guard, and freshman Carl English will provide minutes off the bench at shooting guard.

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