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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 2, 2006

Rainbows, Aggies play for 2nd place in WAC

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

The battle for second place should come down to a battle of styles when the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team hosts New Mexico State tonight.

The winner of the 7:05 p.m. game at the Stan Sheriff Center will be in second place in the Western Athletic Conference; the loser could drop as low as fifth.

"We're not nervous. We're excited," Hawai'i center Ahmet Gueye said. "We would rather be playing for first, but we still have a chance for second, so we're ready for this one."

The Rainbow Warriors, who are 16-9 overall and 9-5 in the WAC, will be looking to utilize their size advantage. The 'Bows will start four players 6 feet 6 and taller; the Aggies will start four players 6-6 and shorter.

"We have to play our game," Hawai'i head coach Riley Wallace said. "We'll pick our spots to run, but we can't run-and-gun. That's their style."

The 'Bows blew a 12-point lead in an 87-84 loss at New Mexico State on Jan. 14. The Aggies are 15-12 overall and 10-5 in the WAC.

"We played a little out of control the last time," Hawai'i guard Matt Lojeski said. "As long as we stay in control and take good shots, we should be OK."

The Aggies are the surprise team of the WAC this season under first-year head coach Reggie Theus. They went 6-24 last season and finished last in the Sun Belt Conference.

"The key is my guys have learned how to win and learned how to finish games," Theus said.

The Aggies' lone big man in the starting lineup is a good one. Tyrone Nelson, a 6-9 sophomore, is averaging 18.3 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.

"He's very strong in the post and very talented," Gueye said.

The Aggies may be without starting guard Elijah Ingram, who is second on the team with 13.3 points per game. He sustained a hamstring injury against Idaho last Saturday.

"It's up in the air," Theus said of Ingram's status.

Theus has been rumored to be a candidate for the vacant head coach position at Missouri, but he said yesterday his focus is on New Mexico State.

"It's just rumors; I haven't heard one word," he said. "I think it's great for our program that people are talking about New Mexico State."

Reach Dayton Morinaga at dmorinaga@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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