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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 3, 2003

Kent State is UH basketball's Bracket Buster foe

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

In less than 24 hours, the talk surrounding the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team went from Golden Hurricane to Golden Flashes.

"It's a tough draw and we'll have to travel a long way," UH head coach Riley Wallace said.

Advertiser library photo • Sept. 26, 2002

The Rainbow Warriors will travel to Kent, Ohio, to play the Kent State Golden Flashes in ESPN's Bracket Buster Saturday on Feb. 22. The pairings for the inaugural event were announced last night on ESPN2's "College Game-night."

"It's a tough draw and we'll have to travel a long way," UH head coach Riley Wallace said. "It's not the best situation, but a lot of people are talking about this thing so it should be good exposure."

Hawai'i is one of 18 so-called "bubble" teams invited to participate. All nine games will take place Feb. 22.

The Hawai'i-Kent State game is scheduled to be televised live on ESPN2 at 4:30 p.m. (Hawai'i time).

The event was created by ESPN in an effort to give those teams an opportunity to earn more power rating points late in the season, and thus have a better chance at getting into the NCAA Tournament.

"It's great if you win," Wallace said. "If you lose, it's not a good thing. It could end up hurting you."

Kent State is ranked No. 5 in ESPN.com's Mid-Major Top 10, but the Golden Flashes appear overqualified for the list.

They are on a six-game winning streak and have a 15-2 overall record, including 8-1 in the Mid-American Conference. Last week, the Golden Flashes had a Rating Percentage Index (RPI) of 50, while Hawai'i was 79.

Kent State made national headlines last season when it finished 30-6 and played the Cinderella role in the NCAA Championship Tournament, advancing to the Elite Eight.

"They were a hot team last year and it looks like they're on pace for the same thing this year," Wallace said. "We don't know that much about them, but we've already got some (game) tapes coming to us that we'll look at."

The Golden Flashes also have an All-America candidate in 6-5 forward Antonio Gates. He is averaging 21.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game.

The 'Bows are 13-5 after a thrilling 73-67 overtime victory over Tulsa on Saturday night. Hawai'i is one of four teams from the Western Athletic Conference participating in the event.

Hawai'i has never played at Kent State. The teams have only met once, with Kent State winning, 91-75, in Honolulu on Dec. 29, 1958.

The Golden Flashes play their home games in the Memorial and Athletic Convocation Center. It has a seating capacity of 6,327, and average attendance this season is 4,191.

"In our situation, we have to go out and play in things like this," Wallace said. "The game is going to be on national TV, which we don't get too often, so you do it."

The entire Bracket Buster schedule (all Hawai'i times):

  • Game 1: Fresno State at Creighton, 7 a.m.
  • Game 2: Northern Iowa at Louisiana Tech, 8 a.m.
  • Game 3: Illinois State at Marshall, 9 a.m.
  • Game 4: UW-Milwaukee at Southern Illinois, 10 a.m.
  • Game 5: Ball State at Western Kentucky, 11 a.m.
  • Game 6: Bowling Green at Illinois-Chicago, noon.
  • Game 7: Hawai'i at Kent State, 4:30 p.m.
  • Game 8: Detroit at UC Santa Barbara, 6 p.m.
  • Game 9: Tulsa at Gonzaga, 7 p.m.

• Early departure: The 'Bows left Honolulu for Ruston, La., last night. They are scheduled to play a Western Athletic Conference game at Louisiana Tech on Thursday.

The team will arrive in Ruston this morning, and have three days of preparation for the Bulldogs.

"It's the longest trip we have to make in the (WAC), so we felt like an extra day of rest would be good," Wallace said.

After Thursday's game, Hawai'i will travel to Dallas for a game at Southern Methodist. The eight-day trip comes less than two weeks after an 11-day road trip that resulted in three losses.

"Let's hope we turn it around on this trip," Wallace said. "Because these will be two tough places to play."

• Conference update: Even with a 6-4 record in WAC games, Hawai'i is in third place, just two games behind first-place Fresno State (8-2).

The Bulldogs lost at Nevada, 92-79, on Saturday. The Wolf Pack is in second place at 6-3.

"It's a crazy conference right now," Wallace said. "We have to believe that we still have a shot (at the regular-season championship), but we have to go out and prove we can win on the road."