Rainbows look into the mirror
Fresno State, UH’s opponent tonight, is similar to the ’Bows
Take a look at the storylines surrounding tonight's Western Athletic Conference basketball matchup between Hawaii and Fresno State and several common themes pop up.
UH vs. Fresno St.
When: Today, 7:05 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
TV: Live, KFVE (Ch. 5)
Radio: Live, KKEA 1420-AM
Internet: audio, Sportsradio1420.com; video, hawaiiantelmedia.com
Tickets: $22 (lower level-single seats only), $18 (upper level-adult), $5 (upper-students), $3 (upper-UH students), $5 (Super Rooter/Manoa Maniacs)
Promotion: First 1,000 fans receive a free pom-pom courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines.
Among the similarities:
» Comparable records. Hawaii enters the game at 8-6, while Fresno State improved to 9-6 with a win over Nevada on Wednesday.
» Both are 2-2 in WAC play, with home wins over Nevada and Utah State and road losses to Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State.
» Neither can go very far down its bench. UH has nine scholarship players and a walk-on available. FSU brought nine (seven scholarship and two walk-ons) on the trip.
» Both teams' leading scorers are coming off career-best performances. UH's Julian Sensley scored 32 points against NMSU last week. FSU's Quinton Hosley posted 35 on Wednesday.
» Finally, both need a win to keep pace with the early leaders in the WAC regular-season race.
"The way it looks to me on paper is another Fresno-Hawaii, down-to-the-wire game," UH coach Riley Wallace said. "We always play hard and play tough against them. They're a rival in all sports here and we have to be ready to play."
Tip-off for the meeting between the WAC's longest-tenured members is set for 7:05 p.m. at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Despite all the Rainbow Warriors and Bulldogs share, there are a couple of key differences on the court and off.
The most notable contrast is when the Bulldogs and Rainbows will end their seasons. Where Hawaii can look forward to the WAC tournament in March, Fresno State will sit out the tourney due to a self-imposed postseason ban stemming from violations committed by the previous coaching staff.
Still, first-year coach Steve Cleveland has managed to hold the Bulldogs together and the team responded with an 87-77 win over WAC favorite Nevada on Wednesday.
"You have to just focus on the moment and every opportunity," Cleveland said. "We know we're coming here and playing a really good basketball team that really plays well at home, and that's great motivation."
The teams also part ways in their proficiency from 3-point range.
Fresno State came to town as the WAC's highest scoring team at 75.3 points per game and has hit 125 of 358 3-point shots. Hawaii, by comparison has made 66 of 227 attempts.
The 'Bows' 29-percent shooting beyond the arc places them next to last in the WAC, but the threat of the outside shot remains a vital element in the Rainbows offense.
"We still have to look for them but we have to be more patient, we can't force them," Wallace said. "And if you're not hitting those, you'd better establish that inside game."
Which of UH's big men will start in the post tonight will be determined after the pregame shoot-around. Wallace has alternated Ahmet Gueye and Chris Botez in practice this week. Gueye has started every game this season and leads the WAC in blocked shots. Botez, a starter last season, is averaging 3.4 points and 3.6 rebounds off the bench.
Cleveland admits the Bulldogs don't have much of a post presence, and must create scoring opportunities by shooting the 3, attacking the rim off the dribble, or by creating turnovers with pressure defense.
Transition defense will be critical for the Rainbows as they try to slow the Bulldogs, who push the ball up-court and aren't shy about shooting early in the possession.
"We have to run back and play good man-on-ball defense," UH guard Deonte Tatum said.
"They've got some shooters on their team, so we're going to try to contain them and contest every jump shot."
Hosley, a 6-foot-6 forward, is an early front-runner for WAC newcomer of the year honors, ranking third in the WAC in scoring (19.5 points per game) and second in rebounding (9.5 per game).
Guard Ja'Vance Coleman, FSU's leading scorers last season, remains among the WAC's top producers at 17.6 points per game. Point guard Kevin Bell entered the week ninth in the nation in assists with 6.4 per game.
Guard Dwight O'Neil missed the trip due to academic problems. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Donovan Morris, who made nine 3-pointers and scored 41 points in two games against UH last season.
Honor for Sanchez: Former UH basketball player Clifford Sanchez will be awarded the Kane Fernandez Community Service Award at tonight's game.
Sanchez played for the Rainbows from 1976-81 and is now an associate educational director at the Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center in Los Angeles. He is also a member of the UH Letterwinners Club, the UH Alumni Association in Southern California.