'Bows, Bulldogs match up well
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
A key player is out. The offense is struggling. The team is coming off some disappointing road losses.
The University of Hawai'i men's basketball team is not alone in that scenario.
Fresno State arrived in Honolulu on Thursday with basketball baggage similar to the Rainbow Warriors.
The teams will meet in a Western Athletic Conference game at the Stan Sheriff Center today at 8:05 p.m. A women's game between Hawai'i and Fresno State will precede at 5 p.m.
"We can't worry about who Fresno State has or doesn't have," Hawai'i head coach Bob Nash said. "We have to prepare for their best. We have our own team to deal with and we're trying to prepare as best we can."
The 'Bows are 9-13 overall and on a four-game losing streak. They are 2-7 in the WAC and tied with Idaho and Boise State at the bottom of the current standings.
The Bulldogs are 11-12 overall and in sixth place in the WAC at 4-5.
"The bottom half of the league is in survival mode right now," Fresno State head coach Steve Cleveland said. "We all need wins where ever we can get them."
Among the similar scenarios for the teams:
• Both teams will continue to play without a key player.
Hawai'i junior guard Dwain Williams was suspended indefinitely by Nash this week for violating team rules.
Williams has already missed the last five games following the death and funeral of his cousin in California. The 'Bows are 1-4 in those games.
He still leads the team with 31 3-pointers and is second in scoring with 14.0 points per game.
"He's a great player and a great teammate, but we're kind of used to playing with low numbers already," Hawai'i point guard Hiram Thompson said.
Thompson missed practice time this week due to a shoulder injury, but is expected to play today.
Fresno State's loss is even more significant. All-WAC candidate Paul George is expected to miss his fourth consecutive game due to an ankle injury.
The 6-foot-8 sophomore wing leads the Bulldogs in scoring (17.0 points per game), rebounding (7.3 per game), steals (51) and free-throw percentage (.880).
"We have to try and manufacture points without him," Cleveland said. "It's no secret, we have virtually no depth off the bench in terms of scoring."
George made the trip to Honolulu, but only so he could continue to receive treatment from the team trainers.
"He's not going to play," Cleveland said. "We're not playing games with anybody."
• Both teams are struggling to score points.
Hawai'i has hit for exactly 60 points in each of its last three losses.
"We just have to take care of the ball and play better defense," junior guard Jeremy Lay said. "If we do that — don't give up any easy baskets — our offense will take care of itself."
Fresno State scored 59 and 49 in double-digit road losses at Idaho and Boise State, respectively, last week.
"That was really embarrassing, the way we played in those two games," Cleveland said. "We need to figure it out in a hurry or Hawai'i will do the same thing to us."
One advantage Fresno State has is a WAC victory over Hawai'i already in its pocket. The Bulldogs beat the 'Bows, 78-64, on Jan. 9 in Fresno, Calif.
George had 21 points, nine rebounds, six assists and four steals in that game.
"Paul George is obviously a great player, but they may have somebody else ready to step up and do the same thing," Nash said. "We're preparing for Fresno State as a team, not just one guy."
The Bulldogs collected 14 steals against Hawai'i the last time, and many of those picks led to breakaway dunks.
"We feel like they embarrassed us, but a lot of it was our own fault," Hawai'i center Paul Campbell said. "We have to take better care of the ball and just play better since we're at home."