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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 22, 2003

UH men hoping for post-Christmas gift

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

There is no such thing as a Christmas break for the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team.

"We're going in with a very positive attitude," Riley Wallace said.

Advertiser library photo • Nov. 17, 2003

After back-to-back blowout victories over the weekend, the Rainbow Warriors will spend this week preparing for their own "Christmas season," otherwise known as the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic.

Hawai'i will play Lamar on the opening night of the four-day tournament on Saturday.

The 'Bows have hosted the eight-team tournament since 1964, making it the longest-running tournament of its kind in the nation.

Hawai'i head coach Riley Wallace has such high regard for the Rainbow Classic that he considers it a season within the season.

"It'll be an interesting tournament," he said of this year's field. "We're at home so we should have the advantage. And we're going in with a very positive attitude."

The 'Bows beat Texas Southern and New Orleans by a combined 58 points in the adidas Festival to improve to 5-2. It was the first time since the 1989-90 season that the 'Bows were able to rout consecutive opponents by more than 28 points each.

Wallace does not expect the Rainbow Classic to be as easy.

The marquee teams are missing from this year's field, but as Wallace put it: "There are some teams in there that aren't really big powerhouse names (but) are good."

East Tennessee State, for example, is 7-2 and ranked No. 6 in ESPN's Mid-Major Top 10.

The other teams are American, Bowling Green, Fairfield, IUPUI, Lamar and Pepperdine.

Lamar is coached by Billy Tubbs — a Hawai'i nemesis when he was head coach at TCU a few years ago. In typical Tubbs fashion, the 6-3 Cardinals are a run-and-gun team, and rank among the national leaders with 87.1 points per game.

This year's classic will also feature two of the nation's best, but unheralded, players.

Odell Bradley, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound forward for IUPUI, is averaging 22.8 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. He is one of five players in NCAA Division I averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game.

Deng Gai, a 6-9 center for Fairfield, leads the nation with 5.2 blocked shots per game. Gai, who is from Sudan, also averages 14.4 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.

As the two-time defending champion, Hawai'i is trying to make Rainbow Classic history. No team has ever won three in a row.

Reach Dayton Morinaga at dmorinaga@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-8101.