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UH ready for Idaho


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POSTED: Thursday, January 08, 2009

Welcome to life on the road in the Western Athletic Conference.

The Hawaii men's basketball team spent nearly a full day traveling before arriving in Moscow, Idaho, for today's game against the Vandals at 5 p.m. Hawaii time.

But the lengthy layovers and drives—from Honolulu to Salt Lake City, to Spokane, Wash., to Moscow—weren't enough to dampen the moods of the Rainbow Warriors following an exhilarating 65-64 win against Louisiana Tech on Monday.

"It's a hard place to get to, but we're here," Hawaii coach Bob Nash said. "I thought the spirits of the guys are high and very optimistic."

It's the second road trip of the year for UH after it played just one nonconference away game, at Illinois, where conditions were similarly cold and snowy.

The Rainbows (9-5, 1-1 WAC) arrived yesterday with just enough time for a film session and a light practice in preparation for their first meeting against new Vandals coach Don Verlin, a former assistant at Utah State.

Idaho (7-8, 1-1 WAC), like Hawaii, is a much different team than last year, when the road team won both matchups. But the Vandals have already won at Nevada this year, a place the Rainbows never have in 11 tries.

Verlin worked with Aggies coach Stew Morrill for 15 years, including 11 at USU, and was in charge of the Aggies' efficient offensive schemes.

"There's some similarities (with Utah State's offense) but there's also some marked differences," Nash said. "Their personnel is obviously different. They have good, quick guards out front. They pick you off penetration, have high-ball screens. A lot of high-low."

The Vandals boast Washington State junior transfer Mac Hopson. The 6-foot-2 guard has been the top playmaker so far in the WAC at six assists per game to go along with 16 points per game.

Injuries could be a factor for Hawaii. Point guard Hiram Thompson (who's started four straight games) tweaked a tender hamstring late in the win against the Bulldogs. Nash said if Thompson can't go, Kareem Nitoto will be the starter again.

Shooting guard Lasha Parghalava missed the last game with back spasms, but Nash said "Lasha's fine" for today's game. Forward Petras Balocka is questionable with a groin injury.

"We have enough healthy bodies to play a game, so that's all I'm looking for, is guys who can play," Nash said. "We'll play the ones who can play and those that are banged up a little bit, we'll rest them up."

Hawaii's Roderick Flemings still has the highest scoring average among all WAC players at 17.8 points per game.