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Star-Bulletin Sports

Monday, January 15, 2001

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

UH’s victory
over Tulsa rewarding

Ostler, Savovic add punch
as Rainbows break losing streak

By Dave Reardon

It was just one regular season game. But the University of Hawaii men's basketball team celebrated it's 68-65 victory over Tulsa at the Stan Sheriff Center on Saturday like something much more.

"Every (win) is good, but yeah, this is very gratifying," Rainbows coach Riley Wallace said after UH broke a four-game losing streak with its first WAC victory.

"The locker room was like we won the National Championship."

Well, they did beat a school that finished one game short of the Final Four last year.

The Golden Hurricane (10-6, 1-2 WAC) definitely isn't the same team that won 32 games last year. But they were no pushovers, either, and because of Tulsa's tough schedule, Hawaii moves up to No. 84 in RPI, with the 31st toughest schedule in the land.

It's not enough to make your vacation plans for the NCAA Tournament, or even the NIT.

But it's a start.

The Rainbows (7-8, 1-3) are still searching for their identity more than halfway into the season. Now, though, it's an optimistic waiting for the final piece rather than a desperate hunt for something that might not be there.

With Troy Ostler back at full strength and Haim Shimonovic available in a month, they're getting closer to finding out how good they can be -- regardless of what others think.

"Most people don't expect anything out of us," said guard Predrag Savovic, who made three clutch 3-pointers down the stretch. "But we know when the WAC tournament comes around, we'll be a better team. We'll take a shot at it."

That's not just a crazy musing from Planet Savo. Big men Ostler and Shimonovic, both 6-10, could make UH a factor as the games become more meaningful.

Shimonovic, the Israeli freshman center whose eligibility situation was finally clarified by the NCAA last week, will be available Feb. 15 -- just in time for the tail end of the conference season and tournament.

For now, Hawaii will be content with trying to sneak up on teams. The next opponent is San Jose State; the Rainbows host the Spartans (8-7, 0-4) on Saturday.

"Some people don't expect us to win," said Ostler, who shared team-high with Savovic with 18 points and gathered six rebounds against Tulsa.

It wasn't Ostler's best performance of the season, by far. But it was his most meaningful. It was the first time he played well since spraining his left ankle on Dec. 23.

That 100-86 victory over Alabama-Birmingham was the last time before Saturday that the lineup of Ostler, Savovic, Jeep Hilton, Phil Martin and Nerijus Puida started a game together.

That starting five is 4-1 -- by far the best of the four lineups Wallace has put out for the tip this season.

"Now you see the importance of Troy Ostler and Mike McIntyre," Wallace said.

McIntyre, a key substitute at guard, is also recovering from a sprained ankle. He kept Hawaii's offense under control Saturday as there were nine ties and lead changes in the last 7:28 -- until Ostler's dunk off a sweet bounce pass from Savovic gave UH the lead it would keep with 3:14 left.

"The first three (WAC) games we didn't execute," Savovic said. "Everybody did their part (against Tulsa)."

Forward Nerijus Puida, coming off two off games, did more. He scored 15 points and collected a team-high 11 rebounds.

"That kid's made of heart," Wallace said of Puida. "He refused to be denied the rebounds."

Defensively, it was one of UH's best efforts of the season -- if not the best. Wallace acknowledged that, to a point.

"Tulsa's a good team, but I've got to give (UH's defense) a B+. We gave up too many looks in the post," he said.

Hawaii 68, Tulsa 65

Golden Hurricane (10-6, 1-2 WAC)


Rainbows (7-8, 1-3 WAC)


Key -- fg: field goals; fga: field goals attempted; ft: free throws; fta: free throws attempted; min: minutes; reb: rebounds; a: assists; tp: total points.
Halftime -- Hawaii 29, Tulsa 25.
3-point goals -- UT 5-15 (Hill 4-7, Swanson 1-2, Reed 0-1, Harrington 0-1, Parker 0-1, Johnson 0-1, Shelton 0-2); UH 7-16 (Savovic 4-7, Puida 3-5, Hilton 0-1, Burneika 0-1, McIntyre 0-2). Personal fouls -- UT 22, UH 15. Fouled out -- Ingram. Technical fouls-Hawaii bench. Steals -- UT 4 (Swanson, Davis, Harrington, Hill), UH 9 (Hilton 4, McIntyre 2, Burneika, Puida, English). Blocked shots -- UT 5 (Johnson 5), UH 0. Turnovers -- UT 16 (Hill 4, Swanson 3, Reed 2, Harrington 2, Parker 2, Davis, Shelton, Johnson), UH 11 (Ostler 3, Hilton 2, Puida 2, Savovic, Burneika, English, Team). Officials -- Ranucci, Collins, Pyatt. A-6,301 (tickets distributed), 4,171 (turnstile).

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