GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Riley Luettgerodt of Hawaii battled Gyno Pomare of San Diego for a rebound Friday during the Rainbow Warriors' season-opening loss to the Toreros.
Rebounding the focus as UH looks to ... rebound
STORY SUMMARY »
With one game in the books, the Hawaii basketball team is preparing for its biggest test of the nonconference schedule.
Illinois (1-0) at Hawaii (0-1)
When: Tomorrow, 8:05 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
TV: KFVE, Ch. 5
Radio: KWAI, 1080-AM
Big Ten power Illinois visits the Stan Sheriff Center tomorrow night, aware of the potential pitfall in stopping in Honolulu on its way to the EA Sports Maui Invitational. Two years ago UH upset a Michigan State team on its way to Maui.
"The first focus is the Hawaii game, and that's where we've tried to keep our kids' attention on," Illini coach Bruce Weber said.
The Rainbows have spent the last week addressing concerns that arose in a season-opening loss to San Diego, particularly rebounding. They've also used the time to adjust their roles, given the absence of point guard Matt Gibson, who remains out of action with a knee injury.
Illinois is led by preseason All-Big Ten center Shaun Pruitt, who opened the season with a 12-point, 17-rebound performance against Northeastern on Sunday.
The game will be preceded by the season opener for the UH women's team, which faces Washington at 5 p.m.
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There's nothing like that burning in the legs to reinforce a coaching point.
Bothered by Hawaii's rebounding in last Friday's loss to San Diego, Rainbow Warrior coach Bob Nash stressed a return to fundamentals in their subsequent practices.
Thus, during Tuesday's workout, if a player failed to box out his opponent when a shot went up, Nash called for the entire team to perform a "defensive slide," a drill requiring the 'Bows to shuffle sideline to sideline and back while keeping their fingertips on the floor.
"I'm glad he did that to us," senior guard Jared Dillinger said. "We're definitely going to need to do stuff like (blocking out) more against these guys. They're a little bit bigger than San Diego."
"These guys" happen to be the Illinois Fighting Illini, who visit the Stan Sheriff Center tomorrow night. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:05 p.m.
Executing the little things will become magnified when the Rainbows face the Illini (1-0), who are coming off their eighth straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament and a season-opening win over Northeastern.
The Illini arrived in Honolulu yesterday and practiced at the Sheriff Center last night as coach Bruce Weber looks to keep his team from glancing ahead at their draw in next week's EA Sports Maui Invitational.
"I think that'll be our dilemma as a coaching staff, to make sure our kids not only deal with the travel, deal with the environment, the atmosphere of just being in Hawaii and understand how important Hawaii is," Weber said. "We're going to have to keep their focus on what's important."
The Rainbows (0-1) lost the rebounding battle in their 73-72 loss to San Diego last Friday and the fundamental flaws showed when the coaches reviewed the tapes. While San Diego rained in seven 3-pointers in the first half, Nash was more concerned by the fact that 11 of the Toreros' 13 second-half baskets came inside the paint.
"The film has no prejudice," Nash said. "It doesn't lie, it doesn't make excuses, it just shows you what's there and it showed some very glaring things that we didn't do."
"That's a point of pride we like to have, we win the rebounding and we win the hustle plays," said UH center Stephen Verwers. "Now we have to get back to where we started and block out everybody."
Illinois ranked 29th in the country in rebounding margin last season and return a sizable front line led by preseason All-Big Ten center Shaun Pruitt, who snagged 17 boards -- 10 off the offensive glass -- against Northeastern. The 6-foot-10 senior is the team's top returning scorer and rebounder, averaging 11.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game last season.
"He's just a big guy that's able to catch and score in the middle -- he can post up, does the pick-and-roll well and he's a great rebounder," Verwers said. "I have to step up and just try to control him."
Illinois, now 21-1 in November under Weber, was led by 6-foot-8 senior forward Brian Randle's 14 points in the opener. Point guard Chester Frazier, a member of the Big Ten All-Defensive team last season, also returns.
"They're going to be physical and they're going to be big and they're going to come in well coached," Nash said. "So we have to be at our best to have a chance to play with them."
The Rainbows have been without point guard Matt Gibson since he suffered a knee injury last Wednesday. Where they had a little more than a day to adjust to Gibson's absence prior to the San Diego game, they've had close to a week to get comfortable in their modified roles.
Bobby Nash handled the point guard duties on the offensive end last week, and freshman Kareem Nitoto could see more action in his second career game.
"I think we've looked at a lot of options with Riley (Luettgerodt), Bobby, Jared and Kareem and I think we'll be OK at the guard positions," coach Bob Nash said. "It's not ideal but it is what it is, and we just have to make the most of it."
The Rainbows showed they'll take court time in the Sheriff Center any time they can -- even at 6 in the morning.
The team assembled for practice in the dark of morning yesterday and had a crisp 2-hour workout in the arena. The 'Bows opted for the morning practice rather than the regularly scheduled afternoon session in sweltering Gym II, but Bob Nash said it didn't signal the start of a trend of pre-dawn wake-up calls.
"They came in ready to go and we had a great practice, one of our better practices in terms of guys being alert," Nash said. "There was no slippage in things that we talked about previously."
Illinois has won all four meetings with UH, the last an 82-80 win in triple overtime in the 1995 Rainbow Classic.