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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, January 3, 2002

Chaminade to play the best of PacWest

 •  Schedule

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer

Let the conference games begin.

And what better way than with the PacWest conference leader in town for two games against Chaminade.

Montana State Billings, ranked No. 21 among Division II programs, brings an 8-1 record and 100.4 scoring average here for games at McCabe Gym tomorrow and Saturday.

The Yellowjackets saw their eight-game winning streak snapped Sunday by a Cal State-San Bernardino team that didn't feel guilty about running up the score, 111-65, against the country's top scoring team.

Before the game the Coyotes, who favor a slower-paced game, were averaging 72.3 points per game. They held the Yellowjackets to a 36.2 percent field-goal percentage.


"Oh, Montana is good," said Chaminade head coach Aaron Griess. "They're No. 21 for a reason. Absolutely."

But Chaminade is no guaranteed win for the Yellowjackets.

The Silverswords (7-4) have won seven of their last eight games, despite starting the season with three losses in the Maui Invitational.

But losing to top Division I teams helped more than hurt the Silverswords, who rebounded in time for the start of the 15-game PacWest season.

"(Those losses) were never a concern," Griess said. "They could only help us, whether we won or lost those three games. Those weren't just Division I teams, they were high-major teams. Playing against the best can only make you better."

After 11 games, Chaminade leads the conference in rebounding, averaging 30.6 per game.

Height helps. This year's squad is one of Chaminade's tallest, with nine players over 6 feet 2.

"We're much better defensively," Griess said. "We're out-rebounding our opponents by seven boards a game. And just defending our opponent (has improved). They aren't shooting as well against us."

Defense will be critical against Montana State Billings, an up-tempo team that puts the fast in fast breaks.

"We really need to stop their transition," Griess said. "They lead the country in scoring. We have to make sure they only get one shot per possession."

Thankfully, that's one area where Griess has seen him team improve.

"The five guys on the floor play well together (on defense)," he said. "That's been a factor why we've won seven out of eight."

The Yellowjackets are armed with some serious shooters.

Five players have double-figure scoring averages. Among them is senior Danny Phillips, one of the country's top 3-point shooters, who averages 16.8 points per game. He has made 38 3-pointers this season.

Another outside threat, sophomore point guard David Carse, leads the PacWest in 3-point percentage with .477, sinking 21 in nine games. Carse also leads the PacWest in assists with 7.22 per game and is the team's second-leading scorer with a 15-point average.

"We have to defend that fast break," Griess said. "We're OK, but that's something you can't slip up on. We gotta be concentrating every night."

Offense doesn't seem as much of a concern.

Three Chaminade players average in double figures. Junior forward Leon Ballard leads the team at 15.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Senior center Igor Beljanski, who averages 8.1 points and five boards per game, leads the conference in field-goal percentage at .679. Junior forward Mike Donegan is second at .576.

Donegan, who averages 9.8 points per game, does more than just score.

"Mike knows the game," Griess said. "He's always in the right position, he always does the right thing. He's a very good rebounder (with 6.1 boards per game). He's our garbage man."

Opening the conference season against a top-ranked division team may seem daunting, but the Silverswords are taking it as seriously as they would any game, against any opponent.

"The conference is very strong this year," Griess said. "It's going to be whoever wins the league has gotta be on every night. Every game's important. We treat every game the same."

Hilo opens PacWest season: Hawai'i-Hilo plays host to Western New Mexico tomorrow in the Vulcans' first conference game.

Hilo is on an eight-game winning streak in its best start in more than two decades. Not since the 1980-81 season have the Vulcans started 10-2.

Western New Mexico arrives in Hilo with the conference's worst record at 1-5.

Vulcans forward Kyle Bartholomew recorded two of his six double-doubles last week. The 6-foot-4 junior from Waiakea averages 13.7 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Senior guard Scott Prather is second in the conference in scoring, averaging 18.3 points per game, and first in steals with 2.42 per game.

Hawai'i Pacific will open its PacWest season against Chaminade Jan. 11.

Coming off a 20-day break, Brigham Young-Hawai'i opens its conference season against Hawai'i-Hilo Jan. 11.

The game between HPU and BYUH scheduled for Monday was postponed due to scheduling discrepancies. It will be rescheduled sometime in February.

• • •


Montana State Billings at Chaminade, 7:30 p.m., McCabe Gym

Western New Mexico at Hawai'i-Hilo, 8 p.m., Afook-Chinen Civic Center


Montana State Billings at Chaminade, 7:30 p.m, McCabe Gym

Western New Mexico at Hawai'i-Hilo, 8 p.m., Afook-Chinen Civic Center


Western New Mexico at Chaminade, 7:30 p.m., McCabe Gym

Montana State Billings at Hawai'i-Hilo, 7:15 p.m., Afook-Chinen Civic Center