AP FILE / MARCH 2006
Jermaine Spencer of Northwestern State celebrated after he and his Demons teammates upset Iowa in the NCAA Tournament last season.
Dealing with Demons
Coming off consecutive losses, Hawaii's final pre-Classic test is a team with a big win on its résumé
Now that the exams have been completed and the papers have been turned in, the Hawaii basketball team faces a formidable on-court test today.
Hawaii vs. Northwestern State
When: Today, 5:35 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
TV: KFVE, Ch. 5
Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
Tickets: $26 (lower level, single seats only), $22 (upper, adult), $5 (upper, students), $3 (upper, UH students), $5 (Super Rooter/Manoa Maniacs). Parking, $3.
Promotion: The first 500 fans who donate a new, unwrapped toy to "Toys for Tots" receive a free ticket to the game.
The Rainbow Warriors close finals week on the Manoa campus by returning to the Stan Sheriff Center to face Northwestern State at 5:35 p.m.
The 'Bows (4-4) haven't put on their game gear since dropping a three-point decision to UNLV on Dec. 5, using the break to regroup and refocus for a run of four games over the next week.
"We're studying and the test will tell (today)," sophomore guard Dominic Waters said. "We think we're prepared to pass the test -- we've studied hard all week and we're ready."
Hawaii hasn't lost consecutive nonconference home games since 1998 and is looking to end a two-game skid. The Rainbows' last win came against Pacific in the third-place game of the Great Alaska Shootout three weeks ago, followed by losses at Santa Clara and at home against UNLV.
"It's a big game for us to get our momentum back, confidence back and get back on track on our home court," said senior guard Matt Lojeski.
"I know I've been bothered by (the losses). It's just frustrating when you don't play well and you know you're better than you've shown. So it'll be good to get back on the court."
Although the finals-week break meant having the bitterness of the losses linger for a while, it gave the 'Bows a chance to recharge heading into today's game and the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic, which opens Wednesday.
"We needed to focus and retool some things," Waters said. "Now I think we're back settled and Coach (Riley Wallace) did a really good job of preparing us and settling us down and taking us through each step of the offense."
The Rainbows will test themselves against a Northwestern State (5-4) team that typically doesn't have much use for a shot clock.
The 'Bows figure to be in for another size-vs.-quickness battle and have been preparing to face an up-tempo NSU attack that will force them to hustle back on defense.
"Transition will be a big factor, taking you off the dribble will be a big factor," Wallace said.
"That's fun basketball, that's fun for our fans," said Waters, who made his first career start in UH's win over NSU in last year's Rainbow Classic. "They're athletic and they can go. We worked well on our transition 'D', locating guys and things like that, so it should be a good game."
NSU has used four different starting lineups this season and, like Hawaii, hasn't played since Dec. 5, when it defeated Southern at home.
The Demons will regularly rotate players into the game (12 NSU players average at least 7 minutes per contest). UH will have the advantage in size, as NSU's starting five against Southern topped out with 6-foot-5 forwards Colby Bargeman and Demetrius Bell.
In contrast, UH's shortest starter is 6-5 guard Matt Gibson. Lojeski and Bobby Nash measure 6-6, with 6-8 forwards Ahmet Gueye and P.J. Owsley in the post.
"They're a small, scrappy team, everybody can dribble, they can all shoot," Lojeski said. "We have to play good help defense and we have to use our size and get the ball down low and establish the paint early."
Protecting the ball will also be a key for the Rainbows, who average 18 turnovers per game. The Demons rank 10th nationally with 11 steals per game.
Double feature: Fans attending the final round of the Rainbow Wahine basketball team's Paradise Classic this afternoon will be allowed to stay for the men's game to follow.
The Paradise Classic consolation game starts at 1 p.m., with the championship set for 3. Ticket holders for the women's games can then move into the arena's upper level for the men's game at 5:30. Only men's tickets will be sold after halftime of the championship.
Oregon off to its best start in 10 years
EUGENE, Ore. » Oregon's defense didn't get a chance to test itself against one of the premier scorers in the nation, but the way the 22nd-ranked Ducks played on offense, it's hard to imagine it would have made much of a difference.
Bryce Taylor scored 24 points to lead four other Ducks in double figures in Oregon's 100-74 victory over Eastern Washington (5-6) last night.
The win in the schools' first meeting keeps the Ducks undefeated at 9-0 and off to their best start since winning the first 10 games of the 1996-97 season.
Taylor, who scored a season high, was 8-for-10 from the field and 6-for-7 from the free-throw line.
The Eagles, attempting to defeat a ranked opponent for the second time in school history, lost star sophomore guard Rodney Stuckey to back spasms with 15:47 left in the first half. Stuckey, the nation's third-leading scorer entering the week with a 26.7-point average, finished with two points, shooting 1-for-5 from the field.