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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, January 10, 2002

'Bows face full-court press and La. Tech

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

Sports Illustrated has a reporter covering the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team this week.

ESPN The Magazine called a couple of weeks ago. ESPN.com has made the Rainbow Warriors a regular on its "This Week's Games to Watch" list.

UH head coach Riley Wallace wants his players to forget all of it.

"All of a sudden, everybody's giving them attention and so they think they're good," Wallace said. "That's hurt teams before, so we've talked about not getting too confident, thinking we can just show up and win."

In truth, the 'Bows have been quite good so far with a 13-2 overall record and 4-0 start in the Western Athletic Conference.

But while the players might still be on winter break from classes, the weekly tests continue.

Tonight, Hawai'i will take a seven-game winning streak into a WAC game against Louisiana Tech. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Stan Sheriff Center.

"Every game is a new challenge," forward Phil Martin said. "It's fun with the media getting involved now and people talking about us, but we have to keep that outside. Once we let it get to our heads, it's going to slap us in the face."

In what the 'Bows are hoping will become a weekly ritual, first place will be on the line tonight.

Louisiana Tech, in its first season in the WAC, is 8-4 overall and 2-1 in the conference, with its loss coming Saturday on a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Southern Methodist.

"We're not sure yet about the league because obviously we haven't played these people," Louisiana Tech head coach Keith Richard said. "It's kind of like going into mystery land."

Wallace is concerned about the Bulldogs' quickness; Richard is worried about Hawai'i's size.

The Bulldogs lead the WAC with 43.1 rebounds per game, and 6-foot-5 Darrian Brown (6.9), 6-8 Antonio Meeking (6.3) and 6-10 Zach Johnson (7.3) all average more than six per game.

"They're very aggressive, from the guards up to the big men," Wallace said. "They're quick and they all got hops."

Still, Richard said the inside bulk of the 'Bows may neutralize the rebounding battle.

Pointing toward Johnson, Richard said: "He's listed at 6-10, but he's really 6-8. The kid at Hawai'i (Haim Shimonovich), now he's 6-10."

As far as the flow of the game, something has to give.

The 'Bows lead the WAC in scoring defense, allowing just 58.9 points per game. The Bulldogs rank third in the WAC in scoring with 74.8 points per game.

UH associate head coach Bob Nash, who scouts opponents for the 'Bows, described the Bulldogs' offense as "extremely quick off the dribble."

"Their perimeter guys all can slash to the basket or shoot it," he said. "And their big guys crash the boards hard. It's a very difficult team to defend."

The key player is Gerrod Henderson, a 6-4 senior guard who is averaging 22.0 points per game in the Bulldogs' three WAC games.

"He started the season slow, but he's starting to get it going," Richard said. "Every good team has a go-to player, so he's ours."

UH has its own go-to player in 6-6 senior guard Predrag Savovic, who is averaging 23.3 points per game in WAC contests.

But Richard is most concerned about Carl English, a 6-5 sophomore who is averaging 14.6 points per game.

"He can shoot it, he can drive it, he plays hard on defense," Richard said. "He could cause us some problems."

UH forward Tony Akpan, a 6-8 freshman originally from Nigeria, could make his season debut tonight. He sat out the first 15 games of this season as an NCAA penalty for benefits he received prior to attending UH.