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Hawaii basketball team faces challenging road test at Utah State


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POSTED: Monday, January 11, 2010

It's been a rough Western Athletic Conference road so far for Hawaii and defending champion Utah State.

The Rainbow Warriors can only hope the well-rested and motivated Aggies wait a few more days for some redemption. UH (8-8, 1-2 WAC) plays a USU team (10-6, 0-2) unaccustomed to losing in the Aggies' WAC home opener at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan, Utah, today at 4:05 p.m.—a full week since Utah State's last game.

UH, meanwhile, had little time to regroup after a 78-64 loss at Fresno State on Saturday. The Rainbows bounced from Fresno, Calif., to San Francisco, to Salt Lake City and bused for an hour to snowy Logan, arriving around noon yesterday. The 'Bows got in a light practice and tried to recuperate after some uneasy sleep; they had to wake up at 3:30 a.m.

"Well, we know it's going to be very difficult," said UH coach Bob Nash on the phone from Logan. "Utah State's had a week to prepare for us. If you give them that much time, they're on top of their game, and we only have a day with our turnaround. But we just gotta go out and take care of the basketball and give it our best effort—gotta make shots, gotta take care of the ball. Too many turnovers is not something we can afford to do to have a chance to beat a team like Utah State (after 20 at Fresno)."

               

     

 

HAWAII (8-8, 1-2 WAC) AT UTAH STATE (10-6, 0-2)

        When: Today, 4:05 p.m.
       

Where: Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, Logan, Utah

       

TV: None.

       

Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM

       

 

       

As good as Utah State's been at home, Hawaii has been just as bad on the road. UH is 0-2 in away games this season, and 0-4 in Logan since USU joined the WAC in 2005-06.

And make no mistake, the Aggies remain potent—especially in front of their bouncing, vocal student section in the Spectrum. USU, the preseason pick to repeat as WAC champ, beat BYU in Logan 71-61 on Dec. 2. It was the only loss this season for the same Cougars team that dismantled Hawaii 83-65 in Honolulu. USU is 8-1 at home; the only loss, to Saint Mary's in December, snapped a 37-game home winning streak.

The Aggies lead the WAC in scoring defense (61.2 points per game allowed), assists (15.4 per game), and free-throw shooting (77.9 percent).

With losses of 55-52 at New Mexico State and 82-60 at Louisiana Tech, it's just the seventh time in program history that US has started league play 0-2. The Aggies are 167-13 at the Spectrum under coach Stew Morrill, but one of those losses happened against UH in the 2004 NIT.

They've already equaled their WAC loss total from last year's 30-5 championship season.

"I think our guys have felt a ton of pressure coming off last year," Morrill said. "We lose a tight one to New Mexico State and boy, we read that LaTech's really good, but we didn't even come close to playing basketball down there. You know, we need to just throw caution to the wind. The two things I'm telling them is certainly play hard, but enjoy yourself. Focus on what you need to do. We can't worry about 0-2. We are 0-2. Let's worry about Hawaii. Let's worry about these three games (this week). Basically try not to worry too much. I really think that's been a bit of a negative, with all our past years' success; weighed on our shoulders a little bit."

Though WAC-player-of-the-year caliber guys like Gary Wilkinson and Jaycee Carroll are gone, the Aggies still shred teams with their myriad plays called up from flash cards held by assistant coaches. Junior forward Tai Wesley leads the Aggies with 13.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, and is 17 points away from 1,000 points for his career. Senior guard Jared Quayle, an All-WAC preseason pick, averages 11.7 points per game and junior forward Nate Bendall adds 11.0.

"We have an idea of what they do out of their sets," Nash said. "We just have to make sure we're on our defensive principles and not get beat because we're lazy. ... It's just a matter of playing solid defense."

Forward Petras Balocka hurt his left shoulder in the second half against Fresno State, and went to the bench. But he took shots yesterday and Nash said, "We anticipate him ready to go."