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Thursday, January 20, 2005
[ UH BASKETBALL ]
Rivera's knack for setting up open shots for his teammates aided in Sottos averaging 16.6 points as a sophomore. Likewise, Sottos' ability to cash in on those opportunities boosted Rivera's assist total as the duo helped Southeastern win the National Junior College Athletic Association crown in 2003.
A couple of years removed from their 37-1 title run, Sottos and Rivera now hope to limit each other's production when Hawaii (10-3, 2-3 WAC) and Texas-El Paso (14-3, 4-1) meet in a Western Athletic Conference game today at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso.
Rivera earned All-WAC honors at UTEP last year and leads the conference in assists this season, while Sottos enters the contest coming off the best scoring nights of his UH career.
"I've been talking to him the last couple days," Rivera said. "He's a tough player. I'm looking forward to playing against him."
Today's meeting is the first of two WAC contests between the schools. The Rainbow Warriors and Miners meet again on Feb. 21 in Honolulu.
As the Rainbows prepare to face the Miners, Sottos has been helping the other UH guards know what to expect from Rivera.
"He knows the game so well and he's so quick. He makes decisions when he has to and they're always the right ones," Sottos said.
"I just try to inform some of our guys of what he does. It's going to be hard to stop him, but it can be done, hopefully."
Rivera leads the WAC with 6.5 assists per game in directing the conference's highest scoring offense (76.9 ppg).
Although feeding his teammates is his primary role, Rivera has increased his point production to 12.4 per game and has hit 16 of 25 3-point attempts in five WAC games.
"I know a lot of his game, but I didn't know he had worked on his 3-point shot," Sottos said. "It looks like he's been doing that pretty well lately. In JUCO he couldn't shoot it very well."
Rivera, the Junior College Player of the Year in 2003, probably didn't need to pull the trigger very often at Southeastern as Sottos hit 127 3s in junior college.
"I just say thank you to him because he can really shoot that ball," Rivera said of Sottos' contributions to his assist column.
While Rivera was leading UTEP to last year's NCAA Tournament, Sottos didn't leave the bench much as a junior while backing up All-WAC guard Michael Kuebler.
His playing time picked up this season and he hopes the shooting stroke he displayed last week accompanied him to the mainland.
Sottos hit three shots from beyond the arc in scoring 17 points against Southern Methodist and drained six 3-pointers in a 20-point performance against Louisiana Tech.
"It's a big confidence booster," Sottos said. "I'm even more confident with the shots that I take. Last game, I shot 12 3s and I thought all of them were going in. The confidence is just tremendous."
UH coach Riley Wallace said how much Sottos plays today will depend on whether the Miners decide to play a zone defense against the Rainbows. He said the Miners are primarily a man-to-man team but will play a 2-3 zone at times.
Sottos played just 3 minutes against UTEP last season and Rivera hopes to see more of his former teammate on the court in this year's meetings.
"I hope we can play a couple minutes so I can guard him and put some defense on him," Rivera said. "I don't want him to shoot so many 3s on me."