'Bows expect defense to be key on the road
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
For its first Western Athletic Conference road trip of this season, the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team must remember to pack one thing.
Well, that and maybe some thermal underwear.
The Rainbow Warriors are scheduled to depart Honolulu today for games at Texas-El Paso on Thursday, and Boise State on Saturday.
"You can never take defense away, no matter where you're at," UH point guard Mark Campbell said. "That's something that's always going to be with us."
Defense has certainly been the key to Hawai'i's 11-2 start this season, which includes home WAC victories over Fresno State and Nevada last week.
The 'Bows are statistically the WAC's best defensive team, limiting opponents to 57.9 points per game and a .381 field goal percentage. UH has held its opposition below 60 points seven times already this season, including Saturday's 58-40 victory over Nevada.
The 40 points were the fewest allowed by a Hawai'i team since 1982, and that was before the shot clock was instituted in college basketball in 1986.
"We are playing good team defense," UH head coach Riley Wallace said. "Our on-the-ball defense is still not good, but our team defense is good.
"That's the personality this team seems to be developing."
In recent years, Hawai'i has shown a split personality in road games. Over the past three seasons, the 'Bows are 2-20 in road WAC games, and 14-8 at home.
However, after going 1-7 in WAC road games last season, UH won three games in as many days at Tulsa, Okla., to win the WAC Tournament. Earlier this season, the 'Bows won two of three games on a neutral court in Hilo during the Big Island Invitational.
"I hope that's a sign of changing times," Wallace said.
UTEP has been one of the most daunting road blocks for Hawai'i. Since joining the WAC in the 1979-80 season, the 'Bows are 3-17 against the Miners in games played in El Paso.
"That's a team we lost to two times last year," UH senior captain Mike McIntyre said. "Defense is going to be an important thing. Defense is going to win those games on the road."
Boise State is in its first year in the WAC, but could prove to be as difficult a destination as any. The Broncos are 6-6 this season (0-2 in the WAC), but 5-1 in the BSU Pavilion, which has a seating capacity of 12,380, and has served as an NCAA regional site four times since 1992.
What's more, outdoor temperatures are expected to be in the 30s in Boise, Idaho, and in the 50s in El Paso. The UH women's basketball team had to postpone a game last week after a storm in Boise delayed its flight out.
Wallace is also concerned about the effects of altitude on his players. Both El Paso and Boise have altitudes higher than 2,800 feet.
"You lose a little bit of your step in your get-go when you go into a little bit of altitude," he said. "We have to make sure our defense is intact when we go up there, because it'll be different."
In an effort to reduce jet-lag, Hawai'i will spend New Year's Eve night in Los Angeles, then take a flight to El Paso tomorrow morning.
"There's no school, so we can leave earlier," Wallace said. "We're hoping that can help us, too."
Despite departing early, the 'Bows will not make time for any sightseeing, according to Wallace.
"I don't like tourists unless they're coming to Hawai'i," he said. "So where ever we go, I don't want them out and about being tourists. We're going over there for business."