Saturday, December 4, 2004


’Bows take on young
Billikens today

Members of the Hawaii basketball team spent their free time yesterday afternoon taking in some of St. Louis' signature sights.

Hawaii at Saint Louis

When: Today, 9:10 a.m. (Hawaii time)

Where: Savvis Center

TV: None

Radio: Live, KKEA 1420-AM

Internet: HawaiiAthletics.com

The Rainbow Warriors took a guided tour of Busch Stadium, home of coach Riley Wallace's beloved St. Louis Cardinals, and a few visited the city's famed Gateway Arch.

But today the Rainbows (3-0) will focus on bringing home more than a T-shirt from the gift shop when they face Saint Louis (1-3) in a nonconference contest.

"It'll be another big test, but we've aced all of them so far," UH sophomore Matt Gibson said of the team's first road trip.

The Rainbows arrived in St. Louis on Wednesday afternoon and had two days of practice to prepare for the game. They've also practiced earlier than usual, opting for noon workouts (8 a.m. Hawaii time) in advance of today's 9:10 a.m. tipoff (Hawaii time) at the Savvis Center.

"When you go that far that first (practice is) usually bad, and it was," Wallace said. "(Yesterday) was OK, we got after it pretty good."

The Savvis Center hasn't been a kind place to most visitors over the years, as the Billikens of Conference USA own a 116-41 record in the building and are 56-16 against nonconference foes.

Saint Louis' latest loss came one week ago when a last-second shot lifted Oral Roberts to a 55-54 win.

Low-scoring games have been the norm for Saint Louis so far this season. The Billikens limited their first four opponents to 55 points per game and 36.4 percent shooting from the field. But they've put the ball in the hoop at a 38.6 percent clip, a main reason for their slow start.

"We have defended at a championship level, but our offensive efficiency has been unacceptable," SLU coach Brad Soderberg said. "Our offense keeps providing good shots, but we haven't finished them. We keep telling the kids to keep plugging, and the shots will fall eventually."

The Billikens are a fairly young squad with 10 freshmen or sophomores on the roster. While control of the offense has been put in the hands of freshman point guard Dwayne Polk, two seniors have assumed the scoring load.

Forward Izik Ohanon is Saint Louis' top scorer (13.8 points per game) and rebounder (6.3 rpg). Guard Reggie Bryant was the team's top scorer last season with 16.4 ppg and is again among the leaders, averaging 13 points per game.

Defensive discipline will be a key for the 'Bows, as the Billikens will look to exploit defenders straying out of position.

"They will look for the backdoor cuts and will execute their offense probably better than Southern Illinois did," Wallace said.

The Billikens' defensive scheme will again test a still developing Hawaii offense. The Rainbows scraped out just enough points to overcome a swarming Southern Illinois defense in their 66-64 win on Monday. The Rainbows turned the ball over 21 times against the Salukis, who hounded the UH ballhandlers and jumped into passing lanes throughout the night.

"Defensively, (Saint Louis will) play more position defense, but they won't be any better with their hands and their quickness," Wallace said.

The Rainbows return home tomorrow afternoon and continue their nonconference schedule Dec. 11 against Saint Mary's at the Stan Sheriff Center in their last tune-up before the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic.

Midwest roots: Wallace grew up about an hour away from St. Louis in Jerseyville, Ill., and will have a sizable following at today's game. Friends and family of senior guard Jake Sottos will also make the five-hour trip down from Monmouth, Ill.

Gibson attended Three Rivers Community College in nearby Poplar Bluff, Mo., last season. UH associate coach Jackson Wheeler began his coaching career at SLU as an assistant in 1988 and spent two seasons with the Billikens.

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