Rainbows on road for revenge


POSTED: Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The last time Hawaii played at UC Irvine, Bob Nash did the dirty work himself.

That was in February 1972; the Rainbow Warriors rolled to an 88-79 victory behind Nash and the Fabulous Five to begin a seven-game winning streak.

Nash, now the Rainbows coach, can't suit up at Irvine this time around—as much as he might want to. He'll have to settle for guiding only 10 available players out of a three-game losing streak when UH (2-3) takes on the host Anteaters (3-3) today at 5 p.m. Hawaii time in the Bren Events Center.

UH departed Monday for Los Angeles and was to arrive at its hotel late that night, roughly a 45-minute bus ride from the airport. It's the only nonconference road game on the team's home-heavy schedule.

The message from the coaches to the players was simple—make this one count. Though it's not nearly as arduous a journey as some the Rainbows must endure to places like Moscow, Idaho, and Ruston, La., this trip still requires focus and unity.

Especially since the 'Bows haven't been playing their best ball. In their final practice before leaving, Nash judged their effort lacking and had them run sprints.





        Who: Hawaii (2-3) at UC Irvine (3-3)

        Where: Bren Events Center, Irvine, Calif.

        When: 5 p.m. today

        TV: None

        Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM


“;Going to the West Coast is fine with us,”; Nash said. “;We don't want to have to do a two-tripper or make it a long trip because we got to get back and our guys got to start thinking about study week and getting ready for their finals. We certainly think that's very important. But it's a time we can come together, we'll have a three-game homestand before our finals, and we want to go into the Diamond Head Classic on a little bit of an upswing.”;

Last year, the Anteaters stunned UH 76-70 in an ESPN BracketBusters contest after arriving in Honolulu with a woeful road record and unimpressive resume in the Big West Conference.

The Rainbows, meanwhile, were coming off an uplifting win at Fresno State. The only problem: UH arrived home the night before the game, giving Nash and Co. virtually no time to scout their new foe. Irvine pounced on the weary Rainbows with a bevy of first-half 3-pointers, posted a 20-point lead and held off a big UH rally to win.

Prep time was no problem before this BracketBusters return game.

“;They caught us at the right time,”; Nash acknowledged. “;We know their personnel (this time), we've watched all their games on film. They're a good basketball team, but they don't have quite the same number of shooters they had last time. But they do have some of the same personnel that's capable of giving you difficulties.”;

Five-foot-10 guard Michael Hunter (13.2 points per game) and 6-5 forward Eric Wise (12.8) are Irvine's biggest offensive threats. The good news: Forward Chad DeCasas is gone. The unheralded reserve lit up UH for a career-high 19 in Honolulu.

Guard Jeremy Lay (14.8 ppg) and swingman Roderick Flemings (13.0) are the Rainbows' top scorers. They might have to put up more if UH is to overcome its depth issues.

Guard Dwain Williams (team rules) and center Douglas Kurtz (NCAA violation) are serving the last game of suspensions, while forward Bill Amis is still recovering from a foot injury. Division I transfers Aleksandar Milovic and Zane Johnson can't play this season. Only two of three walk-ons went (Leroy Lutu Jr. and Beau Albrechtson). Kurtz found out at the last moment that he wasn't making the trip, even as a practice player.

Senior forward Petras Balocka shook off any worries of a short bench.

“;I'm going to win there, I'm not coming back with the 'L,' and that's the only attitude I'm going with,”; said the senior, who grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds in UH's last game, a loss to New Mexico. “;Three losses already, too many. If we get a win here, maybe we turn the corner and go up, instead of declining. That's what I'm looking for.”;

UH is Irvine's first Division I home opponent this year.