’Bows go for rare ‘W’
Hawaii kicks off its conference schedule on the road against Utah State
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The Hawaii basketball team opens the Western Athletic Conference season tomorrow looking to buck a couple of trends.
Hawaii (4-8) at Utah State (10-4)
When: Tomorrow, 4 p.m.
Where: Logan, Utah
Radio: KKEA 1420-AM
Conference road wins have been tough to come by over the years for the UH program, which has posted a winning record away from home just once since 1999. Also, the Rainbow Warriors have opened WAC play with a win just once in the last four years.
The Rainbows (4-8) will be in one of the toughest venues in the WAC to start their league schedule tomorrow when they face Utah State (10-5) at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. They arrived in Logan on Monday night, giving them a couple of days to get settled.
"We wanted to be here early so we could acclimate and get more practice at altitude and get ready for Utah State," UH coach Bob Nash said.
The Rainbows' road trip continues Saturday at San Jose State.
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The Hawaii basketball team didn't get the results it hoped for out of the first two road trips of the season.
But the Rainbow Warriors are still looking to get some payoff out of those experiences.
Hawaii celebrated the new year by making the day-long trek to the mountain town of Logan, Utah, where the Rainbows open the Western Athletic Conference season tomorrow against Utah State.
The team is on the mainland for the third time this season, the first two trips resulting in double-digit losses at New Mexico and San Diego. UH coach Bob Nash hopes those expeditions help the Rainbows deal with the challenges inherent in playing away from home during conference play.
"These guys have been on the road and have been in an environment with 13,000 people and at altitude," Nash said. "Hopefully we know how to play through it."
Tip-off for tomorrow's game is 4 p.m. Hawaii time. After the WAC opener, the Rainbows head to California to end the trip at San Jose State on Saturday.
The Rainbows are coming off their best shooting performance of the season in their 74-66 win over Centenary on Sunday and have concentrated on executing in their halfcourt offense in recent practices. Lately, they've run the shot clock into the last few seconds on numerous occasions while grinding through the sets to work for open looks rather than forcing a shot.
Bobby Nash continues to pace the Rainbows with 16.2 points per game, and the Rainbows will look for another balanced showing from its offense coming off a game in which four players scored in double figures. Matt Gibson had eight of UH's 16 assists in that game.
The Rainbows (4-8) arrived in Logan on Monday night, giving them a couple of days to acclimate to the altitude and get a couple of practices in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, where Utah State (10-5) is 8-0 this season and 133-12 in Stew Morrill's nine-plus years as head coach. Hawaii actually owns one of those 12 visitor wins in Logan, beating the Aggies in the 2004 NIT.
But the elements and the raucous atmosphere within the arena are only part of the challenge facing the Rainbows tomorrow.
Utah State enters the game on a five-game winning streak and is led by guard Jaycee Carroll, the conference's leading scorer at 21.3 points per game and the Aggies' top rebounder at six per game.
When the Rainbows last saw Carroll, he was busy scoring 24 points and grabbing a career-high 13 rebounds in a 73-70 Aggies win in the quarterfinals of the WAC tournament that ended UH's season and Riley Wallace's tenure as head coach.
This season, Carroll is shooting 53.2 percent from the field and 94 percent from the free-throw line, and the energetic guard can run defenses ragged.
"He's a focal point. He draws a lot of attention, but it also creates opportunities for the other guys," Nash said.
"They have a lot of sets and run it very well, and they don't break out of it very often -- they make the system work. They always have an option to go to when it gets late in the shot clock."
Aggies forward Gary Wilkinson ranks second on the team at 11.9 points per game, followed by forward Stephen DuCharme's 11.1.