Tuesday, March 10, 1998
Rainbows' new goal: Play in New York
It would take three winsBy Cindy Luis
in the NIT to send Hawaii
to the Big Apple
Forget about making lemonade out of lemons. How about making apple juice out of an apple?
The Big Apple.
Win three games and the University of Hawaii men's basketball team would be looking at a trip to New York for the semifinals of the National Invitation Tournament. The Rainbows (19-8) look to take that first bite tomorrow night when they host Arizona State (18-13) at the Stan Sheriff Center.
"Win three and get to New York . . . that's the plan," said Hawaii senior guard Anthony Carter. "But we still have got to take it one game at a time. We aren't looking past Arizona State.
"We still got a lot of things we need to work on as a team. We need to 'D' (defend) them up and come out with a victory. We had a good practice (yesterday) and everybody's ready to go."
Carter's not at full speed after aggravating a back injury in last Wednesday's loss to UNLV in the WAC Tournament. His range of motion is better and "I'm going to keep going, do whatever it takes for us to win," said Carter.
It will take the same kind of effort Hawaii had during the closing weeks of the WAC regular season to beat the Sun Devils. ASU features 6-foot-3 senior guard Jeremy Veal, the Pac-10's leading scorer (20.5 ppg), and 6-foot senior guard Ahlon Lewis, who leads the country in assists (9.3 apg) and needs just six more to break the Pac-10 record held by Jason Kidd.
The Sun Devils have no player taller than 6-8. Two of them start for interim coach Don Newman: juniors Bobby Lazor (17.0 ppg, 8.0 rebounds) and Mike Batiste (14.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg).
ASU suffered its worst-ever Pac-10 loss Saturday, 117-71, at Southern Cal. Veal was slowed by a stomach virus and missed all six of his field goal attempts in finishing with a season-low 4 points.
Shortly after the loss to the Trojans, Lazor learned his sister Robin, 35, had died earlier in the day in Oregon. She had been battling a lengthy illness, but her death was sudden. The senior guard was on ASU's traveling roster and is expected to play tomorrow night.
"They've got good guards but we have great guards," said Hawaii coach Riley Wallace. "We're not afraid of them.
"We know how good they are. They've got balanced scoring, good athletes, run the transition well and, on a given night, they're as good as anyone in the country. But we're at home, expect another sellout. Ask Vegas (UNLV) how important the home court is."
UNLV earned the WAC's automatic NCAA berth Saturday on its home floor, winning four tournament games at the Thomas & Mack Center.
The Sun Devils finished fourth in the Pac-10 with an 8-10 record, playing themselves off the NCAA Tournament bubble with losses last week at UCLA and Southern Cal. ASU opened the year in the Preseason NIT, reaching the semifinals in Madison Square Garden before losing to Kansas, 90-88, in overtime.
It's deja vu time for the Rainbows, who opened last year's NIT with a Pac-10 team (Oregon) then played WAC foe UNLV. Wallace predicts that - should Hawaii get past ASU - the Rainbows will be hosting WAC foe Wyoming early next week.
The Cowboys (19-8) are home against Gonzaga (23-9) tomorrow night.
Hawaii has already put in a substantial bid to host next week's second round. Wyoming has not.
Should Gonzaga win, the Zags would be unable to host a second-round game. The downtown Spokane arena Gonzaga uses is already booked next week and the school's on-campus gym seats about 3,000, too small by the NIT's money-making standards.
First round: Hawaii (19-8) vs. Arizona State (18-13)
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
Broadcasts: ESPN and KCCN
Tickets: On sale now (Lower bowl sold out, $13 upper bowl)
1997-98 Rainbow Men's Basketball Schedule