Rainbow Wahine ready to make a move without Grice
With his team trying to get a foothold in its climb up the conference standings, Hawaii basketball coach Jim Bolla is working to make sure the Rainbow Wahine don't slip during their trip to the mountains.
UH at Utah State
When: Today, 2 p.m. Hawaii time
Where: Dee Glen Smith Spectrum
Radio: Live, KKEA 1420-AM
Internet: audio, Sportsradio1420.com; video, wacsports.com
The Wahine (14-8, 5-6 WAC) are part of a tightly bunched Western Athletic Conference and seek their third straight road win today at Utah State (2-18, 1-9) at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan.
The Wahine, 61-48 winners against Utah State last month in Honolulu, enter the contest a half-game out of third place in the standings and wary of facing the last-place Aggies. Utah State (3-18, 2-9) has struggled in its first season in the WAC, but has won two of its last three games.
"This could be a trap game for us," Bolla said. "We've already beaten them, and if we let our kids think that way, they could very easily beat us."
While Louisiana Tech (11-1) and Fresno State (10-2) have broken away from the pack in the WAC, the next six teams are within two games of each other and are jockeying for position heading toward next month's WAC tournament.
"Right now we're in position where we can make a significant move in the standings," Bolla said. "So we just need to take care of our business, take care of the games we can control."
Utah State picked up its first home win of the conference season Thursday with a 63-53 victory over Idaho. UH is among three WAC teams with winning road records at 5-2 overall and 3-2 in league play.
"We've never made (playing on the road) a big deal, so it's never become an issue with the kids," Bolla said. "There's no discussion about where we're playing. It's just a road game and we just go to practice and get ready to play."
The Wahine are a bit shorthanded for their trek to Utah.
Starting center Brittany Grice returned home this week to deal with a family situation and did not make the trip with the team. Bolla said she is expected to rejoin the squad next week.
"Our priorities for our program are your family comes first, school comes second and basketball's after that somewhere," Bolla said. "This is a situation where she just needed to be back home for a little while and we did that."
Grice, a 6-foot-4 junior, is the only UH player to start every game this season. She averages 11.2 points and a team-high 7.6 rebounds per game.
UH forward Tanya Smith, center Callie Spooner and guard Saundra Cariaga have also been ill this week, but have been able to practice.
Bolla said forward Amber Lee, who provided solid post play late in last week's win over Boise State, could see more playing time. Dalia Solia, Pam Tambini and Brittney Aiwohi can also fill the post spots.
"We'll be a lot smaller, but they can still play those positions," Bolla said. "We just don't have the size we're used to having. We'll get some play out of Tanya and Callie in the post, it's just how much we'll get out of them."
Solia has been UH's most productive player lately. The junior from Kaimuki is averaging 15 points and 7.3 rebounds in UH's last four games. She drained seven 3-pointers in two games last week after hitting just five in the previous 20 contests.