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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, December 28, 2002

Akpan propels Hawai'i over Bradley, 90-69

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawai'i's Tony Akpan had a career game, scoring 25 points to lead the Rainbows over the Bradley Braves in a first-round game of the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Cashing in a 25-point Christmas bonus from Nkeruwem "Tony" Akpan, the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team routed Bradley, 90-69, in the feature game of the opening night of the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic last night.

Behind the breakout game of Akpan's career, the Rainbow Warriors advanced to tomorrow's semifinals of the prestigious tournament.

A crowd of 5,584 at the Stan Sheriff Center watched the 'Bows improve to 5-1 with their 17th consecutive home victory. The 'Bows will play Tennessee Tech in a semifinal game at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow.

The first round of the eight-team tournament will continue tonight with two games.

"It was by far our best game of the year," UH head coach Riley Wallace said. "A complete game."

The most complete Hawai'i player was Akpan, a 6-foot-8, 240-pound sophomore forward from Nigeria.

He came off the bench to score 25 points and grab eight rebounds. He shot 11-of-13 from the field, making his first 10 shots of the game.

"Honestly speaking, I was just playing and not thinking about how many points I had," Akpan said. "When I came out of the game, one of the team doctors said I had a great game, 25 points, and I said 'whoa, 25?' "

Whoa, indeed. Prior to last night, Akpan had never scored more than eight points in a game in his UH career. In the previous five games of this season, he had a combined 25 points. His eight rebounds also matched a career high.

"He's a big, strong human being, and his whole game of basketball is ahead of him," Wallace said. "He's strong enough to do things other guys can't."

In truth, Akpan's offensive production came as a bonus for the 'Bows.

Wallace initially inserted Akpan early in the game to play defense on Bradley's athletic forward, Danny Granger.

"The whole point of (Wallace) putting me in was for defense," Akpan said. "I went in concerned about my defense and rebounding. On offense, I was just making my normal cuts to the basket and my teammates were getting me the ball."

It was a common theme for the 'Bows, as they used their flex-motion offense to record 24 assists and a .514 field goal percentage. Senior captain Mark Campbell, who battled the flu all week, had a team-high eight assists.

Starting center Haim Shimonovich contributed 20 points and nine rebounds, and starting power forward Phil Martin had nine points and six rebounds. Junior guard Carl English added 19 points and seven rebounds.

The 'Bows out-rebounded the Braves, 42-22. Most significant, Hawai'i grabbed 19 offensive rebounds which led to 26 "second-chance" points. In contrast, Bradley had six offensive rebounds and four second-chance points.

"Haim and Tony, when they're playing the way they are, they're a load for anybody," Wallace said.

Akpan made all six of his shots in the first half to help the 'Bows forge a 41-33 lead at halftime.

But the turning point came 17 seconds into the second half when Granger was helped off the court after taking an inadvertent elbow to his face by teammate Michael Stewart. Granger, a 6-8 forward who was averaging 18.4 points and 8.4 rebounds, was diagnosed with a low-grade concussion and missed the next nine minutes of the game.

"Obviously, we lose our best player for a good portion of the game and it puts a big onus on the other guys to step up," Bradley head coach Jim Les said. "And I thought (Hawai'i) started going inside and taking advantage of our lack of inside presence with (Granger) out of the game."

As proof, Akpan and Shimonovich combined to score 22 of Hawai'i's first 24 points of the second half. During that stretch, the 'Bows stretched the lead to an insurmountable 65-49 with 8:42 remaining in the game.

"We just came out with more energy in the second half," Shimonovich said. "The passing was better and we were all making the right cuts (to the basket)."

English put the game away with 12 points in the final eight minutes.

"Most of our offense is designed to go inside to the big men," English said. "It's high percentage shots, and they were making them, so we kept going to it."

Most of English's points came on open jump shots with the Bradley defense focused on the low post.

"Carl probably played one of his best games of the year," Wallace said. "Because he stayed within the system and worked and got good shots."

A 15-foot jump shot by senior walk-on Ryne Holliday with 7.8 seconds remaining assured Hawai'i of only its sixth 20-point victory in 39 years of the Rainbow Classic. The last time the 'Bows won by a larger margin was in 1989.

Bradley, which dropped to 2-7 with its fifth consecutive loss, was led by James Gillingham's 22 points. Granger added 19 points, although 13 came in the first half before he suffered the concussion.

The Braves will play Alcorn State in a consolation game tomorrow at 11 a.m.



ALCORN ST. (1-8)

Harris 6-16 1-1 15, C. Jackson 1-7 0-0 2, Cable 2-13 2-2 6, Cook 3-12 1-4 11, B. Jackson 2-7 0-0 5, Jones 0-1 0-0 0, Callans 1-3 0-0 2, Howard 0-7 0-1 0, Wallace 0-2 0-0 0, Landfair 4-72-2 10, Frazier 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 20-77 6-10 50.


Morgan 2-4 0-0 4, Perkins 2-3 1-1 6, Jolly 3-5 6-6 15, Crisp 3-10 3-4 10, Kinloch 5-9 4-4 14, Gayden 0-1 0-0 0, Strange 0-0 0-0 0, Clark 0-0 0-2 0, Boyd 1-2 2-2 5, Moore 0-1 2-2 2, Jones 3-8 0-0 6. Totals 19-43 18-21 62.

Halftime—Tennessee Tech 32 32-24. 3-Point goals—Alcorn St. 4-24 (Harris 2-6, C. Jackson 0-2, Cable 0-8, B. Jackson 1-4, Jones 0-1, Wallace 0-1, Frazier 1-2), Tennessee Tech 6-11 (Perkins 1-1, Jolly 3-5, Crisp 1-4, Boyd 1-1). Rebounds—Alcorn St. 49 (Cook 11), Tennessee Tech 33 Perkins, Kinloch 8). Assists—Alcorn St. 9 C. Jakcson, Howard, Landfair 2), Tennessee Tech 16 (Crisp 9). Total fouls—Alcorn St. 19, Tennessee Tech 14.