'Bows face Fresno State in WAC road opener
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
It could be a colorful matchup when the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team plays at Fresno State tomorrow.
Roderick Flemings wants to make sure of it.
Flemings is planning to unveil his new pair of "Rainbow Warriors 2010 edition" shoes when the Rainbow Warriors face the Bulldogs tomorrow.
The Western Athletic Conference game is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. (Hawai'i time) at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif. It will be broadcast via radio on ESPN 1420 AM.
Hawai'i is 8-7 overall and 1-1 in the WAC; Fresno State is 8-7 and 1-0.
"We had some good games with them last year, so it should be a good one again," Flemings said.
The 'Bows held a short, but spirited, one-hour practice yesterday morning. They then departed for Fresno in the afternoon.
"We don't want to be fatigued on the plane, so we made it a short practice," Hawai'i head coach Bob Nash said. "We have another practice (today) over at Fresno, so it's enough time to get ready."
The Bulldogs have also had enough time to prepare. Their last game was a 71-68 home victory over Boise State last Saturday (the 'Bows then beat Boise State, 76-68, on Monday).
"I think it's a positive to get some extra days," Fresno State head coach Steve Cleveland said. "For us, we were able to use the extra time to really focus on our own team, Fresno State, before focusing on Hawai'i."
Still, the teams are familiar with each other.
The 'Bows and Bulldogs met three times last season. Hawai'i won twice in the regular season, including a 73-69 win in the Save Mart Center. However, Fresno State beat the 'Bows 62-58 in the WAC Tournament.
"A lot of players on both sides are back, so you at least have an idea of what to expect," Cleveland said. "But I don't think anybody is comfortable playing anybody in this conference this year. It's so tough to call this year."
Fresno State has emerged as one of the WAC's top defensive teams behind a newfound 2-3 zone.
Opponents are averaging just 63.4 points per game and shooting for a .395 percentage against the Bulldogs.
"They've got some good athletes with good length, so it's an active zone," Nash said. "We just have to be patient and take care of the ball and knock down shots when we get them."
The marquee individual matchup features two NBA prospects in Flemings and Fresno State forward Paul George.
Flemings, a 6-foot-7 senior, is averaging 15.0 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. George, a 6-8 sophomore, is averaging 17.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game, and also leads the WAC in steals with 39.
They became friends last summer at a basketball camp in Texas.
"We've been texting back and forth," Flemings said. "He's saying they're going to kill us; I'm saying we're going to kill them."
Flemings has been wearing gold-and-black shoes this season, but his custom-made new pair was finally completed this week.
It features a unique color pattern of red, blue, orange, yellow and green. Flemings said it was shaped to help support his ankles.
"They had to mold my foot for it, so it took them a while to get the shoe together," he said.