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Star-Bulletin Sports

Wednesday, March 8, 2000

R A I N B O W _ B A S K E T B A L L

Alexander decision
due today

WAC commissioner may
suspend Rainbow player for
tomorrow's contest

Rainbows hope third time a charm

By Pat Bigold


FRESNO, Calif. -- The top official of the Western Athletic Conference has stepped into the investigation of the fight incident between University of Hawaii senior center Marquette Alexander and a Fresno State fan.

WAC commissioner Karl Benson huddled yesterday at a downtown hotel with UH athletic director Hugh Yoshida, Rainbow head coach Riley Wallace and campus police to determine what action to take in the matter.

Benson said he will make a decision today as to Alexander's playing fate. Benson said that Alexander's fighting with the fan last Saturday is "subject to the WAC jurisdiction and WAC sportsmanship policy."

The WAC men's tournament begins tomorrow at Selland Arena. The Rainbows are scheduled to play SMU in tomorrow's first-round game at 4 p.m. HST.

Benson made it clear that Alexander, not the fan, is the focus of his inquiry. Suspension is a possibility.

"We're trying to sort out the responsible parties to determine whether any WAC rules were violated," he said.

Suspension would be an unfortunate end to the career of Hawaii's two-time scoring leader and recent second-team All-WAC selection.

Alexander was ejected from two games during the 1998-99 season for arguing with officials. He was removed from last year's game at Fresno State due to an incident with a fan and suspended for one game by Wallace.

But this season, Alexander has been a model athlete.

"He's improved attitude-wise, probably more than any other player I've known,'' said Wallace on Senior Night at the Stan Sheriff Center on Feb. 19.

Benson said the incident is being investigated by a combination of campus and city police.

"There definitely was an incident that doesn't happen on a regular basis,'' said Benson. "So, it's a matter of processing it, and making the determinations. There's a lot of finger-pointing."

A photo of Alexander was on the front page of the Fresno Bee yesterday, teasing a sports section interview with the fan in question, Glenn Douglas.

The story was headlined, "Fresno State fan plans to sue Hawaii player.'' The story quoted Douglas, 28, as saying he has two witnesses who saw Alexander assault him.

Alexander admits to striking Douglas, but he said the fan provoked him. In the Bee story, Alexander is quoted as saying "Fresno State fans are the worst around.''

After reading the Bee story, Wallace put Alexander off limits to the media. Wallace also locked the doors of the Fresno State campus gym the Rainbows used for practice yesterday, the first time the team had closed practice session.

Two local TV stations, KMPH and KJEO, aired an interview with Douglas Sunday night in which he displayed and described his injuries. But his vow to file a complaint with the Fresno County district attorney apparently hasn't been carried out.

A check with the D.A.'s office late yesterday found there was no complaint on record.

Asked if he is worried about the WAC's liability in any lawsuit filed by Douglas's lawyer, Benson said no.

"Even though this was a WAC event, the legal liability is not necessarily a concern," he said. "I think right now, it's a matter of determining what happened."

Benson said he wasn't aware of comments by Troy Ostler and Lane O'Connor that they had been struck enroute to the locker room.

But he said Fresno State, and not the WAC, was responsible for the actions of its fans on Saturday.

"This week, at the WAC Tournament, it becomes the responsibility of the WAC,'' he said.

Meanwhile, Fresno State athletic director Allen Bohl dismissed the comments of his head basketball head coach, Jerry Tarkanian, made Monday in defense of Alexander.

Tarkanian told the Star-Bulletin he had talked to witnesses and found "our fan was out of line totally.''

"Coach Tarkanian was in no more of a position to see what happened than I was," said Bohl, who put the focus on Alexander's action. "Any time you go to swing and hit somebody, that's putting you in an awkward position.''

Bohl pointed out that the last time Fresno State had a fan problem was in 1999, and it also involved Alexander.

"We removed that fan immediately," he said.

Rainbows hope third
time a charm

Bullet RealAudio: Click here

By Pat Bigold


FRESNO, Calif. - Western Athletic Conference trivia question:

Which men's basketball team has the second-most upsets of higher seeds in the WAC Tournament's history?

Answer: The University of Hawaii (five).

That's how the Rainbows need to be thinking right now as they prepare to meet Southern Methodist (21-7, 9-5), the WAC's No. 3 seed, in the first round of the tournament tomorrow at Selland Arena (4 p.m. Hawaii time).

Hawaii (16-11, 5-9), the No. 6 seed, is in the throes of a slump in which the Rainbows have lost six of their last seven games.

SMU defeated Hawaii twice during the regular season (79-73 on Jan. 12 at Stan Sheriff Center, 89-73 on Feb. 12 at SMU).

But it's not easy to beat a team three times in the same year, especially a team that has climbed up your back in both of those games.

In the January game, the Rainbows erased an 18-point second half deficit to lead four times, the last at 68-67, before the Mustangs went on a 12-5 run to end it.

In the February game, the Mustangs' first-team All-WAC guard, Jeryl Sasser, scored a career-high 32 points. But thanks in large part to Todd Fields' surprise 20-minute performance off the bench, the Rainbows cut a 40-27 SMU halftime lead to 78-72 with four minutes to play.

Hawaii senior forward Marquette Alexander averaged 20 points and nearly 10 rebounds against SMU in the two games.

Two factors in Hawaii's favor, according to SMU head coach Mike Dement, are that the Rainbows have been in Fresno for a week, and the Selland Arena floor was their most recent playing surface.

"We're looking more at the game we played at their place," said Hawaii head coach Riley Wallace

"We had a hard time with their transition. They got some easy baskets beating us down the floor, and Sasser hit some big shots."

"They trapped us in a 1-3-1 zone, but we handled it alright," said associate head coach Bob Nash. "In the second half they played us straight-up and used their athleticism against ours."

Two of Hawaii's biggest problems at SMU were that Predrag Savovic, the team's second-leading scorer, fouled out with only seven points, and Hawaii's top assist man, Nerijus Puida, had only two assists against five turnovers.

Dement said last night his team had two of its best offensive games of the season against Hawaii.

"But we played one of our worst Saturday (83-78 double overtime loss to visiting Tulsa)," said Dement.

Dement said his Mustangs had trouble with Hawaii's transition game and had not been able to find a way to contain Alexander.

"In both games, he has scored at will against us," said Dement.

Alexander's ability to keep WAC all-defensive team player Willie Davis (9.2 rebounds per game) off the glass will be critical.

The other first-round games :

Tulsa vs. Rice:

All-WAC forward Eric Coley, is the best player on a very balanced nationally ranked team. Coley had 99 steals in 30 games for the Golden Hurricane (27-3, 12-2).

Bill Self, the WAC coach of the Year, said that if his team can't stop Rice's inside game, his Golden Hurricane will have problems.

But the injury-plagued Owls (5-21, 1-13) aren't likely to offer much resistance, even with Mike Wilks (16.1 ppg) and Alex Bougaieff (13.1 ppg) playing their best.

TCU vs. San Jose State (15-14, 6-8):

Horned Frog coach Billy Tubbs said this is the "toughest" matchup of the tournament. "They're the two most equally matched teams," said Tubbs.

This is true.

TCU (17-13, 8-6) is the WAC's top scoring offensive team (88.6 ppg) while the Spartans (15-13, 6-8) are the WAC's top defensive team (allowing 59 ppg).

TCU has the best 3-point shooting and free throw percentages in the WAC while San Jose State has the WAC's best field goal defense and the second best 3-point defense.

Fresno State vs. Texas-El Paso:

The Bulldogs (21-9, 11-3) have the most efficient scoring machine in the country in WAC player of the year Courtney Alexander (25.7 ppg).

Plus they have the nation's fifth best rebounder in Larry Abney (11.7 rpg).

Add in the WAC's leading shot blocker, Melvin Ely (3.7 per game), Jerry Tarkanian's postseason rep, and the home court advantage and you have the recipe for a conference tournament title.

The Miners (13-14, 4-10) counter with All-WAC forward Brandon Wolfram, the WAC's second leading scorer (20.9 ppg) and freshman of the year Roy Smallwood.

"We're outmanned and we'll have to junk it up," said Miners head coach Jason Rabedeaux.

UH Athletics
Ka Leo O Hawaii

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