’Bows like the night in Classic
UH coach Nash gets a Rainbow Classic he can call his own
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For the last 11 years, the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic has been a purely nocturnal activity for the Hawaii basketball team.
Hawaii is trying to repeat as the champion of its 44th Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center
» Ohio vs. St. John's, 5 p.m. (KFVE)
» Louisiana-Lafayette vs. Hawaii, 7:30 p.m. (KFVE)
» Tulane vs. Saint Mary's, 5 p.m. (KFVE)
» East Tennessee State vs. Georgia, 7:30 p.m. (KFVE)
The Rainbow Warriors will again look to avoid the tournament's daylight rounds when they face Louisiana-Lafayette on opening night of the 44th annual tournament tomorrow at the Stan Sheriff Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
The first-round winners in the four-day tournament advance to Friday night's semifinals. The losers are relegated to the mid-day consolation bracket.
Hawaii is 22-2 in the tournament over the last eight years and enters this year's event as the defending champion. Along with UH (3-4) and Louisiana-Lafayette (2-6), the field features Ohio, St. John's, Tulane, Saint Mary's, East Tennessee State and Georgia.
"I really like this field, it's a very competitive field," Hawaii head coach Bob Nash said. "I think it's a tournament anyone can win. It's wide open."
The Rainbows return to the Sheriff Center coming off a 10-day break since their win over Long Beach State on Dec. 9, and will face a Ragin' Cajun team that beat Louisiana-Monroe to end a six-game losing streak on Sunday before flying to Honolulu.
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The Rainbow Classic has been part of Bob Nash's holiday season schedule for close to three decades.
The tournament was only 7 years old when he first participated in the event, helping the Rainbow Warriors win back-to-back titles, and his 30 rebounds against Arizona State to win the 1971 final remains a school record.
He was on the sideline for eight more championships as an associate coach, including last year when UH beat Creighton to win its fifth title in six years.
But the Rainbows' first-year head coach knows come tomorrow night, history won't matter.
"All that stuff goes out the window," Nash said. "The fact that we won last year doesn't mean anything this year."
The 44th annual tournament opens with two games tomorrow, with Hawaii (3-4) facing Louisiana-Lafayette (2-6) in the 7:30 p.m. feature game at the Stan Sheriff Center. Ohio plays St. John's in the opener at 5 p.m.
The first round continues Thursday with Saint Mary's and Tulane meeting at 5. East Tennessee State faces Georgia at 7:30. The semifinals are Friday with the finals on Saturday.
Hawaii and Georgia are the only schools in this year's field to have won a Rainbow Classic. The Bulldogs won the title in 1996 and finished second to UH in 2001.
But any thoughts of adding to the trophy case were distant at best yesterday while Nash pushed the Rainbows through a 2-hour practice in Gym II.
"I'm not looking at the week. I'm looking at Louisiana-Lafayette and how we can best prepare for them," he said.
The Rainbows have won their first-round game each of the last 11 years -- a streak that includes a win over the Ragin' Cajuns (then known as Southwestern Louisiana) in 1998 -- and enter the tournament coming off a 10-day layoff following their win over Long Beach State on Dec. 9.
The break gave the team a chance to charge their batteries in preparation for playing three games in four days, but also raises questions of rust going into the Classic.
"I think the thing we have to look at is do you get out of rhythm because you've been out 10 days," Nash said. "I think these guys have done a pretty good job of staying sharp and working on the things we need to work on as a team."
For their part, the Rainbows are eager just to see another team on the court after banging against each other for more than a week.
"We're so anxious," senior Jared Dillinger said. "We can't wait to get to the game and get back into the grind."
Nash hopes to have starting guard Riley Luettgerodt back in action tomorrow. Luettgerodt, UH's second leading scorer, sat out of yesterday's practice to allow swelling resulting from a thigh bruise to subside. Luettgerodt might see some light duty today leading up to tomorrow's game.
"We're not going to rush anything," Nash said. "We'd rather have him ready for the game than for practice."
Tim O'Shea (seventh year)
F Leon Williams, 15.9 ppg; F Jerome Tillman, 14; G Bubba Walther, 13.3.
Ohio handed Maryland just its fourth nonconference home loss in 19 seasons with a 61-55 win last Wednesday at the Comcast Center. The Bobcats then got hammered by No. 3 Kansas 88-51 on Saturday. ... Ohio's offense revolves around the inside play of Williams and Tillman, who combine to shoot 54 percent. ... The team is in the midst of a cross-country road trip from Maryland to Kansas to Honolulu.
St. John's (4-2)
Norm Roberts (fourth year)
3-3 (1969, 1976)
F Justin Burrell 14 ppg; G Larry Wright 13.8; G/F D.J. Kennedy 12.
Red Storm notes:
Made the journey from Queens, N.Y., following a 77-73 loss to Niagara on Saturday, the Red Storm's second straight loss following a 4-0 start. ... Wright has made 16 of the team's 39 3-pointers. ... Junior forward Anthony Mason Jr. has been hampered by an ankle injury and played in one game this season. The son of the former NBA player led St. John's in scoring last season and is expected to play this week.
Robert Lee (fourth year)
G Elijah Millsap, 12.8 pgg; G David Dees 11.5.
Ragin' Cajun notes:
Opened their Sun Belt schedule with a 68-67 win over Louisiana-Monroe on Sunday, snapping a six-game losing streak. ... Millsap, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, is the brother of former Louisiana Tech standout Paul Millsap, now with the Utah Jazz. He was the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year last season and leads the Ragin' Cajuns in scoring, rebounding (seven rpg) and steals (15). ... 10 of 13 players on the active are sophomores and freshmen, the other three are seniors.
Bob Nash (first year)
72-57, 11-time champion
G/F Bobby Nash, 17 ppg; G Riley Luettgerodt, 15; G Matt Gibson, 12.
Rainbow Warrior notes:
Hawaii has won the tournament seven of the last 10 years and finished no lower than third each year since 1999. ... Bobby Nash scored a career-high 30 points against Illinois and has made 23 of 26 free throws. ... G/F Jared Dillinger is shooting a team-best 54 percent and ranks third in the WAC with 13 steals.
Saint Mary's (7-1)
Randy Bennett (seventh year)
G Patrick Mills, 15.5 ppg; C Omar Simhan, 13.1; F Diamon Simpson, 12.6.
A 7-0 start led to the Gaels' first national ranking in 18 years. They then lost at Southern Illinois 71-56 in their last game before the Classic. ... Saint Mary's ranks among the nation's highest-scoring teams at 80.1 ppg. ... Mills, a 6-foot freshman, scored 37 points in an upset of then-No. 11 Oregon on Nov. 20. He's the youngest player selected to the Australian national team. ... Simpson was an All-WCC first-team pick last season.
Dave Dickerson (third year)
F David Gomez, 12.2 ppg; G Kevin Sims, 11.4
Green Wave notes:
Defeated Indiana State 80-68 yesterday in New Orleans before making the trip here. ... The Green Wave opened with a win over Auburn and defeated Gardner-Webb, which upset Kentucky early this season. ... Sims, a 5-foot-10 sophomore, leads the Green Wave in assists with 4.9 per game. ... Forward Robinson Louisme is averaging 10 points while shooting 72 percent.
East Tennessee State (4-5)
Murry Bartow (fifth year)
G Courtney Pigram 16.9; F Kevin Tiggs, 15.4.
ETSU is coming off road losses at Oklahoma State and Syracuse, falling 125-75 against the Orange on Saturday. ... The defending Atlantic Sun regular-season champions are led by Pigram, the league's reigning player of the year. ... Tiggs was the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II National Player of the Year last season.
Dennis Felton (sixth year)
5-1, (1996 champion, 2001 runner-up)
G Sundiata Gaines, 13.7 ppg; G Billy Humphrey, 13.7; F Terrance Woodbury, 10.4.
The game with ETSU will be Georgia's first since blowing out Wake Forest 72-50 on Dec. 8 ... The Bulldogs' lone loss came at Wisconsin on Nov. 24. ... The 6-foot-1 Gaines also leads the team in rebounding (6.6 rpg) and assists (33).