Rainbow Warriors first WAC road test at Fresno
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
After getting a much-needed win on Monday, the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team is on to the much-dreaded road now.
The Rainbow Warriors are scheduled to depart Honolulu today for their first Western Athletic Conference road trip of the season.
The five-night trip will feature games at Fresno State on Saturday, then at Utah State on Monday.
Hawai'i is 8-7 overall and 1-1 in the WAC after a 76-68 home win over Boise State on Monday.
"Going on the road is rough for every team," Hawai'i leading scorer Roderick Flemings. "But it's really rough in the WAC, and especially for us coming all the way from Hawai'i."
Indeed, the 'Bows have a 15-44 road record against WAC teams since the 2002-03 season. Last season, Hawai'i finished 2-6 on the WAC road, with one of the wins at Fresno State.
"We've played well at Fresno in the past. For what ever reason, it's been a pretty good matchup for us," Hawai'i head coach Bob Nash said. "But that was then and this is now. We can't look at the past, at history. We have to focus on what's ahead, and that's a tough game against a good Fresno State team."
The Bulldogs are 8-7 overall and 1-0 in the WAC. Their WAC win also came at home over Boise State.
"Any time you go on the road, no matter where it is or who it's against, it's about taking care of the basketball," Nash said. "So that's our top priority."
Fresno State has emerged as one of the top defensive teams in the WAC. The Bulldogs are allowing 63.4 points per game, while limiting opponents to a .395 field goal percentage.
Fresno State also leads the WAC in steals (8.1 per game) and blocked shots (4.5 per game).
"We can't let the pressure bother us," Nash said. "We have to try and play the game at our pace, as opposed to playing at the home team's pace."
This will be Hawai'i's second road trip of this season. The 'Bows lost a single-game trip at UC Irvine on Dec. 2.
FEW EARLY SURPRISES
The opening set of WAC games produced only a few surprises, according to Nash.
Most notable, Louisiana Tech was the only team to go 2-0, and preseason conference favorite Utah State went 0-2.
"It surprises me that Utah State is where they are," Nash said. "But that shows you how strong our conference is."
Now, Utah State will have a full week to prepare for Hawai'i, while the 'Bows will have less than one day to get ready for the Aggies.
After playing at Fresno State on Saturday, the 'Bows will travel to Utah State on Sunday.
Utah State, meanwhile, does not play on Saturday.
"That's just how the schedule is," Nash said. "We can't worry about it or complain about it."
Hawai'i junior guard Dwain Williams returned to practice yesterday, and will travel with the team.
He sat out the last game due to a shoulder injury. Williams is second on the team in scoring with 14.8 points per game, and leads the team with 25 3-pointers.