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Star-Bulletin Sports


Monday, March 12, 2001


R A I N B O W _ B A S K E T B A L L



Invitations to the Big Dance
Illustration by Kip Aoki, Star-Bulletin



Hawaii, Syracuse
to meet again

Rainbows to play the Orangemen
in a regional matchup reminiscent
of the 1994 NCAA opener

RAINBOW BASKETBALL NOTEBOOK


By Dave Reardon
Star-Bulletin

TULSA, Okla. -- The upstart University of Hawaii men's basketball team heads east today to prepare for a chance to scratch a seven-year itch Friday.

UH plays Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA Tournament's Midwest Regional in Dayton, Ohio. The final of four games is expected to start around 4:30 p.m. HST.

The Rainbows lost to the Orangemen the only time they've faced them, in the NCAA first round, 92-78, on March 17, 1994 in Ogden, Utah.

UH "Last time we were right there with five minutes to go with Trevor Ruffin as hot as can be and big Tony Maroney," UH head coach Riley Wallace said. "But we had some mismatches and our defense wasn't as good as it is now, zone in those days. This team can do a lot more things. It can beat you five ways instead of one or two."

Seven different Rainbows have scored 20 or more points this season, the most recent being freshman guard Carl English. The Western Athletic Conference Tournament MVP put in 25 as Hawaii earned its Dance bid by beating Tulsa, 78-72, in overtime in Saturday's conference championship game.

The last time Hawaii was in the NCAA Tournament, English was 13, honing his jumper on an outdoor rim, wearing mittens in the snow of Patrick's Cove, Newfoundland.

The 1994 game was the second of two UH appearances in the Big Dance, and Hawaii has yet to win a first round game. It is 0-2 in the NCAA Tournament, with the other appearance a 91-64 loss to Weber State in 1972, when current associate head coach Bob Nash starred for the Fabulous Five.

No. 17 Syracuse (24-8) is an at-large entry, and is coming off a 55-54 overtime loss on Friday to Pitt in the Big East semifinals.

The Orangemen and Rainbows are seeded the same as they were in 1994: Syracuse at No. 5 and Hawaii at No. 12.

The Rainbows found out where, when and who they play by crowding into coach Riley Wallace's hotel room yesterday to watch the CBS Selection Sunday show. The players -- though few seemed aware of or concerned about the history with Syracuse -- were happy with the matchup.

Judging from the reaction, they're just glad they didn't have to go to Boise, Idaho, host city of a West Regional.

The team flew to Ohio today, continuing a road trip that began with a March 1 game at San Jose State. UH has won seven of its last eight games, including four of the five on this road trip.

A key to Friday's game will be Hawaii's hot 3-point shooting against Syracuse's 2-3 zone defense.

"They play good zone, but we're a good zone shooting team," Wallace said.

The Rainbows made 12-of-33 shots from 3-point range on Saturday, with junior guard Mike McIntyre converting on 5-of-8 and English hitting 4-of-7. For the three-game WAC Tournament, UH made 30-of-72 on 3-pointers for an outstanding 42 percent.

Other bombers are 6-foot-6 junior guard Predrag Savovic (10-of-19 in the WAC Tournament) and 6-5 senior forward Nerijus Puida (7-of-18). McIntyre was 7-of-19 and English 7-of-11 in the three games. Junior 6-6 post Mindaugas Burneika is also capable of hitting the 3-ball, having hit 22-of-51 on the season for 43 percent.

In addition, Hawaii is playing its best interior defense of the season.

"(Syracuse) is a pretty good team, but I think we should be able to give them a good fight," Puida said. "We've improved a lot from the beginning of the season on attacking a zone. We have good perimeter shooters who make big shots. We just have to prepare for them and shoot the ball."

Junior 6-6 forward Preston Shumpert is Syracuse's leading scorer with 19.8 points a game, but he was listed as questionable because of a scratched cornea.

Three other Orangemen average double figures in scoring: 6-9 senior forward Damone Brown (16.8 points), and guards DeShaun Williams and Allen Griffin (10.6 ).

Syracuse has won four games by one point or in overtime since Feb. 3. When coach Jim Boeheim talks about his team, he sounds like Wallace describing his squad.

"This team has found a way to win games all year, and I can't say enough about the character and heart of this team," Boeheim said. "They've been unbelievable."

They've also been inconsistent the last part of the season, losing five of their last 11. Syracuse may be more talented, but Hawaii is definitely the hotter team.

The Rainbows have four days to prepare for the Orangemen, and Wallace likes it that way.

"I don't want this to be a fluke, we come in here (to the WAC Tournament) and play three good games and then not play well," he said. "We've got to get together and understand where we are and what we're doing."


RAINBOW BASKETBALL NOTEBOOK

Tapa

Tulsa ran tourney
with class

TULSA, Okla. -- A rambunctious but well-behaved full house of 8,160 at the Reynolds Center loudly cheered Tulsa on Saturday in the final of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament, won, 78-72, in overtime by Hawaii.

The Hurricane fans showed a lot of class when Rainbows post player Troy Ostler left the game with an injury in the first half, giving him a standing ovation. Also, many disappointed Tulsa fans still wished the Hawaii team good luck in the NCAA Tournament, where UH plays Syracuse in the Midwest Regional in Dayton, Ohio, on Friday.

Just two examples of Tulsa rolling out the red carpet for the WAC Tournament. The city hopes to host again next year. Only Tulsa and Fresno, the 2000 host, put in bids.

"We'll evaluate both tournaments before making a decision," WAC commissioner Karl Benson said.

Benson also said holding the tournament at a neutral site is not feasible because of attendance considerations.

Hawaii coach Riley Wallace was impressed by the hospitality and the way the tournament was run here.

"I've never been to one better. The people here have been first-class. It's a great facility. They have great homecourt advantage, but the fans and everything here and the hospitality ... has been outstanding."

Fixing ankles

Ostler, who aggravated a left-ankle sprain sustained earlier in the season, returned to the game, finishing with four points and one rebound in 20 minutes.

The ankle did not swell overnight and was improved yesterday, according to trainer Jayson Goo, who said the 6-foot-10 senior will be ready to play in the Rainbows' first-round NCAA Tournament game.

"It's feeling better already," Ostler said last night.

Putting some English on it

Carl English's falling five-footer with less than two seconds left in regulation to tie Saturday's game will go down as one of the greatest -- if not the greatest -- shot in UH basketball history.

But it wasn't drawn up that way in the timeout.

"We had a set play for Savo (Predrag Savovic) coming out on top, but they pushed him out too far. So, I didn't figure I should give it to him because there wasn't much he could have done with it. So I just drove, put it up and luckily it went in," English said.

The WAC Tournament MVP came off the bench in three games to average 14.7 points, 5 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.3 steals in 24 minutes a game.

Must be the shoes

Guard Mike McIntyre, who played his best game of the WAC Tournament by far in the final with 19 points, did it with a new pair of shoes -- courtesy of the University of Tulsa.

One of McIntyre's shoes broke Friday, and Tulsa supplied him with a pair his size.

He customized them, writing "Let's go Dancing" on one.

Money, money, money

By appearing in the NCAA Tournament, a school makes $300,000 for its conference for each game it plays. The money is divided into equal units.

Each member school gets a unit, and the participating school gets an additional unit.

So Hawaii gets $60,000 for its first-round appearance, plus $30,000 for Fresno State's appearance.

Scout's honor

The unsung heroes in the practice gym -- the scout team -- also came through for the Rainbows last week, helping the regulars prepare for three tough opponents in three days.

The always-intense Todd Fields set such a hard pick on Mike McIntyre in practice that associate head coach Bob Nash had to tell Fields to turn it down a notch.

"Todd and Lane (O'Connor) had some great practices," Wallace said. "And Tak (Lance Takaki) always runs it well at point. Nash (who runs the scout team) loves this group."

Fans from afar

The Texas-El Paso band showed up in Aloha attire in support of Hawaii, playing the "Hawaii Five-0" theme several times. Tulsa beat UTEP, 59-56, in a semifinal on Friday.

The UH band and cheerleaders and the Rainbow Dancers did not make the trip, but will be at the NCAA Tournament.

A group of about 75 Hawaii fans included several of Wallace's relatives, who came from Illinois to watch the tournament --sister and brother-in-law Myrna and Harold Landon, sister Marilyn Perdun and cousins John and Ellen Dukeman.

Also, sophomore guard Ryne Holliday's parents, Ann and Neal, made the trip from Belleville, Ill.

Tip-ins

The congratulatory calls continued with barely a pause yesterday to Wallace's cell phone. One was from Texas Christian coach Billy Tubbs. The Rainbows beat the Horned Frogs, 99-79, in Thursday's quarterfinal. Tubbs is rumored to be leaving TCU, possibly for the UNLV job. ... If UH beats Syracuse, its likely second-round opponent is No. 4-seed Kansas, which Hawaii beat, 76-65, in the 1997 Rainbow Classic. ... Savovic was mentioned yesterday in Part 1 of a series in the Dayton Daily News about foreign athletes playing in American high schools and colleges. According to the article, Savovic played in a professional league in Yugoslavia before enrolling at Alabama-Birmingham, from where he transferred to UH two seasons ago. But Savovic said he did not receive pay, including expenses. ... Syracuse lost to eventual champion Michigan State in the Sweet 16 of last year's NCAA Tournament.


Dave Reardon, Star-Bulletin



UH Athletics
Ka Leo O Hawaii



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