'Bows ready to hold court after layoff
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
School might be out of session, but the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team won't be taking any breaks this week.
"It's all business," Hawai'i head coach Bob Nash said. "We're not thinking about anything but basketball this week."
The Rainbow Warriors will host College of Charleston on the opening night of the inaugural Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic tonight at the Stan Sheriff Center.
The 'Bows and Cougars are scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. in a game that will be televised nationally on ESPNU. Three other tournament games will be held earlier today, also on ESPNU.
Hawai'i has not played since Dec. 12. The 'Bows have spent the past nine days preparing for the Diamond Head Classic and completing final exams.
Nash even scheduled the team's Christmas party for this past Sunday so that they could concentrate on the tournament this week.
"There's no more finals, no school, and as far as all the Christmas dinners and parties, that's all taken care of," Nash said.
The only question might be how the 'Bows respond after such a long layoff between games. Today will be the first of three games in four days for all the teams in the tournament.
"I think our guys are ready to play another team," Nash said. "How much the layoff will hurt or help us, I won't know until the games are actually played."
Hawai'i is 5-4 and on a three-game winning streak. CofC is also 5-4.
Unlike the 'Bows, the Cougars played two games last week. They beat Charleston Southern, 87-74, on Wednesday, then got crushed by No. 24-ranked Clemson, 94-55, on Saturday.
"We were playing well before that last game," CofC head coach Bobby Cremins said. "But then we just ran into a buzzsaw at Clemson."
Because the Cougars had to play at Clemson on Saturday, and then endure a full day of travel Sunday, Cremins said he was still trying to figure out a plan for Hawai'i yesterday.
"We just haven't had time to look at Hawai'i yet," he said. "But we'll be ready by (tonight)."
The 'Bows, meanwhile, have had ample time to study the Cougars.
"They look like they like to push the ball and put up a lot of shots in a hurry," Hawai'i point guard Hiram Thompson said. "We've been working hard on defense this week, making sure we get back in transition."
The Cougars rely on a three-guard lineup: 6-foot-2 Donavan Monroe, 6-1 Andrew Goudelock and 6-foot Tony White Jr.
Goudelock leads the team in scoring with 16.8 points per game, and White is a candidate for the Bob Cousy Award, which recognizes the nation's top point guard.
"Andrew is a good scorer for us," Cremins said. "Tony White has been in a slump, so hopefully he comes out of it this week."
The Cougars average 24.5 3-point attempts per game, while making an average of 8.5 per game.
But perhaps because of their lack of size, the Cougars are being out-rebounded by opponents, 44.2-31.9, on average per game.
The 'Bows can counter CofC with a variety of lineups. Hawai'i usually likes to start a big lineup, with 6-3 Thompson at the point, and 6-7 Roderick Flemings and 6-8 Adhar Mayen on the wings.
If the Cougar guards prove to be too quick for Hawai'i's big lineup, the 'Bows can bring in 6-footers Dwain Williams and Jeremy Lay.
"It depends on how the game goes," Nash said. "We have the luxury of having some bigs we can use. But we can also go small when ever we need to."
The low-post will also feature an intriguing matchup, as both teams have double-double players.
CofC's top inside player is 6-8 Jeremy Simmons, who averages 13.6 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. He will likely be matched against Hawai'i's 6-8 Petras Balocka, who is averaging 10.1 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.
What's more, the 'Bows are as healthy as they've been all season. All 13 active players on the roster have been able to practice since last week.
"It was a chance for us to evaluate guys at different positions, using different lineups," Nash said. "It was a chance for us to develop as a team."
The Diamond Head Classic is operated by ESPN Regional Television, so the Hawai'i coaches had no say in the pairings for the tournament.
"It doesn't matter," Cremins said. "It's a tournament. You can't worry about who you're playing because you have to play three games anyway. It is always tougher to play the home team, though."