Rainbows are taking Anteaters seriously


POSTED: Saturday, February 21, 2009

These Anteaters aren't nationally ranked or a threat to crack into the NCAA postseason. And they can't impact Hawaii's standing in the Western Athletic Conference.

Still, Bob Nash and the Hawaii men's basketball team are treating UC Irvine like any WAC foe in the midst of league play. The Rainbow Warriors host UCI in an ESPNU BracketBusters nonconference contest tonight at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Tip-off is at 7 p.m., with no television coverage.

While the ninth-ranked baseball Anteaters playing at Les Murakami Stadium this weekend are established, the UCI hoops squad (9-17, 6-7 Big West Conference) is striving to improve any way it can.

“;We look at every game as being important,”; Nash said. “;It's because we're trying to build an identity with our team that no matter the situation, no matter what the team, we're going to come out and give our best effort and try to win. Simply because it's a game that doesn't have implications for WAC standings or that kind of thing, that doesn't matter to us. We see Irvine as a challenge, as an opponent, we have to prepare and be ready to play.”;

Yesterday evening, the Rainbows (13-12, 5-8 WAC) arrived from Fresno, Calif., site of their 73-69 victory over Fresno State on Thursday. The UH coaches put the team through a brief walkthrough of some of Irvine's plays, and wanted to keep the players' legs fresh for today's game.

It was the second time this season that UH had to fly home quickly for a Saturday game after a Thursday road game. The result of the previous instance: a 67-51 pasting by the WAC's top team, Utah State, at the Sheriff Center.

Nash isn't preparing for this one any differently, despite the Anteaters' 3-9 road record. UCI is coming off a big 73-51 win over Cal State Northridge, which was in first place in the Big West.

“;Those things don't happen by fluke. They happen because they're well coached and they believe in the system,”; Nash said.

Forward Eric Wise leads the Anteaters with 13.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. UCI will also look to guard Michael Hunter (11.6 ppg) and center Kevin Bland (10.2) for production.

After his 22-point, 12-rebound outing at Fresno, junior swingman Roderick Flemings is second in WAC scoring at 17.2 ppg, behind New Mexico State's Jahmar Young (18.2). It was his fifth double-double of the season.

Forward Petras Balocka sat out against the Bulldogs with a groin injury, and is still day-to-day, Nash said.