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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, November 27, 2006

Wallace hopes early travels pay off later

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

Matt Lojeski

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The University of Hawai'i men's basketball team left Anchorage, Alaska, yesterday with two quality victories and some cherished moments that will be freeze-dried in their memories forever.

The Rainbow Warriors continued their 11-day road trip yesterday by arriving in San Jose, Calif. They will play Santa Clara on Wednesday.

"It's a long road trip for us, but we can't lose focus," Hawai'i head coach Riley Wallace said. "I said before, the reason why I wanted to do a trip like this early in the year was to get this team ready for the end of the year."

The 'Bows captured third place in the eight-team Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout on Saturday. They went 2-1 in the tournament, with a loss to California sandwiched between victories over Hofstra and Pacific.

"Our goal was to win the tournament," senior co-captain Matt Lojeski said. "But we're proud with third place. We feel like we beat two pretty good teams, and the team we lost to is a really good one."

California went on to win the Great Alaska Shootout, and forward Ryan Anderson was named the Most Outstanding Player.

Lojeski was the only Hawai'i player named to the 10-member all-tournament team. He averaged 15.3 points, 5.7 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game in the tournament.

"I liked the tournament because these are teams we normally don't see," Lojeski said. "And the two wins we got should be good for us. Hofstra is picked to be first or second in their conference, and Pacific is picked to be first or second in their conference."

The third-place finish was also quite a turnaround from Hawai'i's previous appearance in the Great Alaska Shootout. In 1993, the 'Bows went 0-3, and lost the three games by an average of 42 points per game.

But Wallace, who was in his seventh season as Hawai'i head coach in that 1993-94 season, said he was not satisfied with last week's third-place trophy.

"Hell no, I'm not happy," he said. "We lost a game. I've never been happy in my life to lose a game. But I'll take it because it could have been worse."

Considering the elements, it was still an accomplishment for the 'Bows to win two games in Alaska.

Temperatures ranged from 15 degrees to minus-15 during the six nights that the 'Bows were in Anchorage.

"Cold ... very, very cold," junior forward Bobby Nash said. "The coldest place I've ever been to, that's for sure."

Wallace, who was raised in Jerseyville, Ill., said: "I love Anchorage. I've been here in July for clinics and stuff like that. It's a beautiful state when it's warmer. I'm from Illinois, so I know what cold is like. But this ... this was really cold."

It was so cold that the only times the 'Bows ventured out of their hotel was to shuttle between practices and games. They even ate most of their meals in the hotel's restaurants.

"I wish we could have seen more the glaciers, the pipeline, some of that stuff," junior guard Matt Gibson said. "But it was still fun to be in a place like this. I don't think I'll ever get to experience something like this again."

One of the highlights for the team came when they drove past a big moose roaming along the side of the highway.

"You don't see that very often," Nash said.

In any case, Wallace said the 'Bows can carry the experience into at least two more tournaments this season the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic next month, and the Western Athletic Conference Tournament at Las Cruces, N.M., in March.

Wallace likes to point out that the 1993-'94 Hawai'i team that went 0-3 in the Great Alaska Shootout went on to win the WAC Tournament and advance to the NCAA Tournament.

Reach Dayton Morinaga at dmorinaga@honoluluadvertiser.com.