RAINBOW WARRIOR BASKETBALL
Important tests come in bunches for Rainbows
Hawaii has to open its WAC season in the middle of finals week
As if cramming for final exams weren't enough, the Hawaii basketball team is busy preparing for a tough test on the court to begin its conference schedule.
Finals week for the fall semester ends tomorrow and the Rainbow Warriors are busy hitting the books while also studying tape of Western Athletic Conference newcomer Utah State.
"That's part of college; you have to manage your time," senior forward Julian Sensley said. "We're preparing, but coach is going lighter in practice so we can go home and study."
The Rainbows (3-2) and Aggies (4-2) meet in the first WAC game of the season Saturday at the Stan Sheriff Center. Tip-off is set for 1:05 p.m.
The game was moved from February to mid-December to avoid a scheduling crunch when ESPN's Bracket Busters Saturday rolls around during the WAC season.
The matchup features the conference's oldest member against one of its newest. UH is entering its 27th season of WAC play, while Utah State joined the league this year along with Idaho and New Mexico State.
Both the Rainbows and Aggies have had their attention split between taking exams and getting ready for Saturday's WAC opener.
Utah State isn't scheduled to arrive in Honolulu until tomorrow night. After a night's rest, the Aggies will then have to gear up for an early afternoon start.
"We're in the same situation as Hawaii in that we're in the middle of finals and trying to practice and get something done in the midst of all that," Utah State coach Stew Morrill said.
Morrill is familiar with the challenges involved in traveling to Hawaii, having coached former WAC member Colorado State for seven years in the 1990s.
Still, playing in the far-flung WAC will require an adjustment for the Aggies, who moved over from the relatively cozy Big West Conference.
"In the Big West, sometimes we just got on a bus and it was an hour apart. This league is not that way," Morrill said. "It's the same for everybody and really harder for Hawaii than anyone."
Though new to the conference, Utah State is expected to contend right away. The Aggies and Rainbows were tied for second place in the WAC preseason coaches poll behind Nevada.
Utah State has averaged better than 25 wins over the past six seasons and reached the postseason each time, losing to Arizona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last March.
The Aggies top the nation in shooting at 54.8 percent this season, with sophomore guard Jaycee Carroll leading the team with 20 points per game.
Hawaii returns to the Sheriff Center following a trying trip to the frigid Midwest, where they stumbled to a 58-52 loss to Wisconsin-Milwaukee last Saturday.
UH is 3-0 at home this season and averages 81.3 points at the Sheriff Center, while scoring just 56.5 points on the road.
"The only thing you can do is take the positives from it and learn from your mistakes," Sensley said. "We put it past us and we have to move on. It's a long season."
Coming and going: UH guard Matt Lojeski returned to practice yesterday after sitting out Tuesday with a sprained left shoulder.
He appeared to favor the injury and UH coach Riley Wallace said a decision on whether Lojeski will start on Saturday likely won't be made until game day.
John Wilder was first in the rotation at shooting guard in yesterday's practice.
Guard Matt Gibson, who was reinstated from a suspension on Tuesday, missed the workout after having minor surgery to remove a golf-ball sized cyst on his chest resulting from a staph infection.
Wallace said Gibson's status is day-to-day.
Guard Bobby Nash has an injured right shoulder and will miss Saturday's game.
On the tube: The UH-Utah State game will be the last of three pay-per-view television appearances for the Rainbows this season. The rest of the home schedule will be televised on KFVE.
The rematch between the Rainbows and Aggies on Jan. 30 in Logan will be televised nationally as part of ESPN's Big Monday.
WAC BASKETBALL: HAWAII VS. UTAH STATE
When & where: Saturday, 1:05 p.m. at the Stan Sheriff Center
TV: Pay-per-view, Dig. 255. Repeat at 10 a.m. Sunday on KFVE.
Radio: Live, KKEA 1420-AM
Tickets: $22 (lower level, single seats only), $18 (upper level-adult), $5 (upper-students), $3 (upper-UH students), $5 (Super Rooter/Manoa Maniacs)
Promotions: Free admission to the UH women's game against Campbell. Half off upper-level tickets by donating a toy for "Toys for Tots." The promotion is good only for advance sales at the Sheriff Center ticket office.