RAINBOW WARRIOR BASKETBALL
Rainbows' defense a key against 3-point happy Bulldogs
Hawaii may use an occasional zone against Fresno State, which has made 144 of 397 treys
For the Hawaii basketball team to defend its home court tomorrow, much will depend on the Rainbow Warriors' efforts on defense as they open the home conference schedule against a Fresno State team with offensive threats at every turn.
"We've got to work hard to make sure they concentrate and that they buy into it and they're ready because otherwise they'll shoot you out," UH coach Riley Wallace said.
Hawaii (9-6 overall, 0-2 WAC) faces Fresno State (13-2, 2-0) in their conference home opener at the Stan Sheriff Center. Tip-off is for 7:05 p.m.
The Rainbows lost two road games last week to open WAC play as Wallace sees this week's games against Fresno State and No. 19 Nevada as critical to Hawaii's hopes of contending in the conference.
"We're in a 'must' situation, we've got to win," Wallace said. "If you want to compete (in the WAC race), there's a lot on it."
The Rainbows haven't gotten off to an 0-3 start in the WAC since 2001 and will look to get back on track with a return to the Sheriff Center after losing at New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech.
"We're not out of any hunt, there's a lot of games to be played," guard Matt Gibson said. "It was a couple of unlucky losses that we can learn from. The biggest thing is we have to learn from them and come out here and work to get better.
"We've got to stay aggressive, we have to stay hungry and we have to keep attacking."
The Rainbows devoted a chunk of yesterday's practice to covering the floor in their man-to-man sets, and have also used a 1-2-2 zone as a changeup this season.
Wallace went to the zone against New Mexico State last week to contain an athletic New Mexico State team and it proved effective in the Rainbows' win over Fresno State last season at the Sheriff Center. After the Bulldogs torched the nets early in the game, the zone disrupted their rhythm enough to allow the 'Bows to rally to a 73-65 win. Fresno State gained a split with a 73-67 win in Fresno.
Fresno State remains the WAC's most trigger-happy team from behind the 3-point arc -- they set a WAC record by launching 37 treys in their last visit -- and will challenge the Rainbows to both cover the perimeter and guard against penetration to the basket.
The Bulldogs have taken a league-high 397 shots from 3-point range -- 102 more than Idaho, the next team on the list -- and have made 144.
"You live by the sword and you die by the sword," Wallace said. "But their sword has been pretty sharp."
Fresno State is making a strong case for a return to the postseason after serving a ban on tournament play last season as a penalty for violations committed by the previous coaching staff.
While they look to score from the perimeter, the Bulldogs have added an inside presence in forward Dominic McGuire.
The junior transfer from California is second on the team in scoring with 12.9 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. He also leads the WAC in blocked shots with 55. He recorded a triple-double last month with 14 points, 14 rebounds and 10 blocks against San Diego.
Forward Quinton Hosley leads the Bulldogs with 14.5 points per game, and center Hector Hernandez, ranks ninth in the country in 3-point shooting at 52 percent, with a team-high 36 made.
The backcourt is formidable as well, with Ja'Vance Coleman (11.1 ppg) and Kevin Bell, the WAC leader in assists with 5.7 per game.
The Bulldogs are also the stingiest team in the WAC in allowing a league-low 61.9 points per game with opponents shooting just 36 percent against them.
The Rainbows hope their efforts on defense can turn into points in transition.
"We're going to get the ball out and get the ball up the floor again," Gibson said. "When we pull the rebound we have to run, and if they score, we have to get the ball out and get it down the floor and get our post men some one-on-one opportunities and get our shooters some open looks on the break."
Notes: UH center Todd Follmer has rejoined the team. He returned home to California last week due to a death in the family and missed both road games. ... Nevada forward Nick Fazekas suffered a sprained ankle in Monday's win over Boise State and is doubtful for the Wolf Pack's game at San Jose State tomorrow. His status for Saturday's game against Hawaii is uncertain.
The Associated Press contributed to this story