Rainbows have big advantage tonight
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
You know the saying, there's always someone worse off than you?
That's the approach the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team can take tonight when it hosts Idaho in a Western Athletic Conference game at the Stan Sheriff Center.
The Rainbow Warriors are 10-8 overall and 4-4 in the WAC after dropping back-to-back road games by double-digits.
But that's mild compared to the Vandals, who are 3-15 overall, 0-7 in the WAC, and on a nine-game losing streak.
"Their record doesn't reflect how good they are," Hawai'i senior forward "Big Matt" Gipson said. "And anyone can beat anyone in the WAC. But we're back at home, we're comfortable here, and I fully expect us to win this game."
Much could depend on Hawai'i's size advantage. The 'Bows will start 6-foot-6 Matt Lojeski at shooting guard, 6-9 Julian Sensley at small forward, 6-9 Gipson at power forward, and 6-7 Ahmet Gueye at center. They also have 7-foot Chris Botez in reserve.
"We have a big frontline, but we haven't really been scoring inside," Gipson said. "That's something we really need to do more of, especially against the smaller teams."
The Vandals do not have any players taller than 6-8 on their roster, and they normally keep three guards on the court — 5-10 Keoni Watson, 5-11 Tanoris Shepard, and 6-3 Brett Ledbetter.
Hawai'i associate coach Bob Nash, who scouts opponents, said the Vandals rely on quick feet and quick shots.
"The three guards can break you down off penetration with their quickness," he said. "It is one of the smaller teams in the WAC, but quickness has been a problem for us in the past."
Idaho is in its first season in the WAC after nine seasons in the Big West.
"I think with our talent right now, we'd be real competitive in the Big West," Idaho head coach Leonard Perry said. "But we still need some time to get the kind of athletes we need to compete in this league."
The Vandals are coming off a 35-point loss at Fresno State Monday, but Perry said his players have not lost any confidence.
"They're working their butts off every practice," he said. "As long as we keep doing that, we'll catch somebody."
But he admits tonight will be a difficult task. "Their whole roster is a concern for a team like us," Perry said of Hawai'i.
The 'Bows, meanwhile, appear to be confident again because they are at home again. Hawai'i is 10-2 at the Sheriff Center this season, including 4-0 in the WAC.
"The season is still in our hands," Gueye said. "We have some very winnable games right here, so if we take care of our business, we're back in it."
Reach Dayton Morinaga at firstname.lastname@example.org.