RAINBOW WARRIOR BASKETBALL
Rainbows want to get out and run again
UH has slowed slightly lately, so Wallace wants to see a better pace against Nevada
AS the Hawaii basketball team looks to build on its head start in the Western Athletic Conference race, the Rainbow Warriors are looking to jump start their running game.
UH's transition attack, which sparked the Rainbows offense early this season, has slowed in recent games, and the 'Bows are looking to get back into gear as they prepare for tomorrow's contest against defending WAC champion Nevada.
HAWAII VS. NEVADA
When: Tomorrow, 7:05 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
TV: Live, KFVE (Ch. 5)
Radio: Live, 1420-AM
"We've lost our transition game, we've got to get that back and the fast break," UH coach Riley Wallace said. "We're working on trying to get out and get down the floor a little bit better and work on our break. We have to find our spots and push it."
UH (7-4, 1-0 WAC) opened its WAC schedule with a win over Utah State last month, and will try to protect its home floor against the Wolf Pack (10-2, 0-0) at the Stan Sheriff Center. Tip-off is set for 7:05 p.m.
The Rainbows have had a week to prepare for a Nevada team that slipped out of the national polls this week but remains the favorite to claim the league title.
The preparation time is a luxury for a UH squad that didn't
have much rest while playing five games over 10 days during the holidays.
"Coach gave us two days rest to get our legs back," senior forward Matthew Gipson said. "We came in here crisp and ready to go."
The start of conference play means each possession becomes magnified, particularly against one of the top defensive teams in the WAC. So the occasional easy basket in transition can provide a needed break from the five-on-five halfcourt grind.
The 'Bows were able to push the ball down court for quick scores early in the season. Lately, though, opponents have been able to recover on defense quickly enough to cut off lanes to the basket.
"We're a team that can get up and down the floor and we still want to use that to our advantage," forward Julian Sensley said. "The first couple of games of the season people were able to see what we were able to do. We just have to get our focus back.
"People have been getting in us and playing us aggressive and we just have to answer back. We've been practicing our fast break. We just have to have an aggressive mind-set."
UH's ability to play an uptempo pace has also been affected by a shorter bench as a result of injuries. Still, picking the right spots to run could prove pivotal against a Nevada team that ranks second in the WAC in scoring defense.
The Wolf Pack led the league in most defensive categories last season and have 6-foot-11 forward Nick Fazekas and 7-foot center Chad Bell protecting the paint this year.
UH leads the WAC with 60 blocked shots, with Nevada just behind at 57.
"Their key is they've got big people who don't give you layups and they get to the free-throw line a lot," Wallace said.
Nevada, off to its best start since the 1978-79 season, occupied a spot in the national polls all season prior to an 89-80 loss at St. Mary's (Calif.) last week.
The defeat snapped a 14-game road winning streak, which included wins at Vermont, UNLV, Kansas and Pacific earlier this season. The Wolf Pack's other loss was to No. 16 UCLA on Dec. 10 at a neutral site.
Fazekas, the preseason WAC Player of the Year, returns as the focal point of the Nevada attack with 20.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. He's shooting 55.2 percent from the field and has been held under 10 points just once over the last 44 games.
"He's their guy, the offense goes through him," Gipson said. "He's one of the best players in the nation right now and he's got a great game. It's a challenge."
But if defenses converge on Fazekas, forward Mo Charlo (13.8 ppg) can also provide scoring. Guard Marcelus Kemp is averaging 14.8 points coming off the bench.
Nevada has also shot 90 more free throws than its opponents this season (297-207) and has made 69 percent of those attempts.
Despite the hot start, Nevada coach Mark Fox wasn't thrilled with the Wolf Pack's defense last Saturday, particularly after surrendering an 18-0 run to St. Mary's in the second half.
Fox told the Reno Gazette-Journal he is considering shaking up the Wolf Pack's starting lineup.
"If it means personnel changes, we will do that," Fox told the newspaper. "We have to play better basketball. If it means shaking up the lineup, we may do it."
Defense occupied much of Fox's practice time Monday.
"I am not in a panic mode by any means," Fox said. But "if we want to defend the league championship, we have to improve. We have played at a high level this season, but we didn't Saturday."
The Associated Press contributed to this report