RAINBOW WARRIOR BASKETBALL
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii's Matthew Gipson, right, is among the Rainbows in charge of keeping LaTech's Paul Millsap in check.
Stopping Millsap is key for UH vs. LaTech
The junior had 30 rebounds in two games last week
The good folks of Ruston, La., attending tomorrow's game between Hawaii and Louisiana Tech would be advised not to leave the Thomas Assembly Center too early.
It usually takes all 40 minutes to decide a winner when the Rainbow Warriors and Bulldogs take the court.
HAWAII AT LOUISIANA TECH
When: Tomorrow, 3 p.m. Hawaii time
Where: Thomas Assembly Center
Radio: Live, KKEA 1420-AM
The last seven games between the teams have been decided by an average of 2.8 points with LaTech winning the last three contests by a total of four points. So if form holds, tomorrow's battle between the Western Athletic Conference's early leaders figures to come down to the final frantic moments.
"Every game over there's been close and the ones they've won (in Honolulu) have been last-second shots," UH coach Riley Wallace said. "It's going to get down to it probably."
LaTech coach Keith Richard echoed that sentiment during Monday's WAC teleconference.
"We've had some real battles," Richard said. "It seems like all the games have been close. ... Very, very close games, hard fought home or away, and I don't see this one being any different."
The Rainbows (8-4) open their first WAC road trip of the season against LaTech (9-6) with both teams looking for a 3-0 start to the conference schedule. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. Hawaii time.
The Rainbows haven't started 3-0 in WAC play since their championship season of 2001-02. LaTech never won its first three WAC games in its previous four seasons in the conference.
Louisiana Tech swept last year's series against UH, with both games decided in the final seconds. The Bulldogs escaped Honolulu with a 61-59 win on a putback by Wayne Powell with 3.3 seconds left. In the rematch in Ruston, Paul Millsap made a free throw with 4 seconds remaining in a 71-70 LaTech win.
Millsap figures to be a central figure again tomorrow. The reigning WAC Player of the Week ranks second in the league in scoring (20.7 points per game) and first in rebounding (11.9 per game).
He also hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give LaTech a 75-72 win at Boise State last week.
The 6-foot-8, 245-pound junior led the nation in rebounding his first two seasons and gets most of his points off of the boards.
Millsap collected 30 rebounds in two games last week, 20 on the offensive end. He's the only Bulldog averaging double-digit scoring.
"A lot of their offense is off of their rebounds," said Wallace, who expects the Bulldogs to try to turn the game into a half-court duel. "They had more offensive boards than Boise had rebounds (23-21). ... He's relentless on the offensive boards."
The task of trying to keep Millsap away from the glass will fall to UH's trio of post players -- Ahmet Gueye, Chris Botez and Matthew Gipson -- who combined for 11 of UH's school-record 13 blocked shots against Nevada last week.
The Rainbows gave up 37 points to Nevada's Nick Fazekas last week, but contained the rest of the Wolf Pack enough to pull out an overtime win.
Now the 'Bows will have to find a way to take their shooting stroke on the road, where they went 2-for-30 from 3-point range in losses at UNLV at Wisconsin-Milwaukee this season.
"(LaTech's) 2-0 is a little better than our 2-0. They're 2-0 on the road," Wallace said. "We have to find out what we can do away from home. We have to carry the game we play at home on the road."