Rainbows take on
athletic Islanders

By Cindy Luis

Big and athletic.

It's a lethal combination that the Hawaii basketball team expects to see tonight from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. And two of the true island teams in America put impressive streaks on the line in the 7 p.m. title game of the Hawaiian Airlines Tip-Off Tournament at the Stan Sheriff Center.

The visiting Islanders, based on Ward Island, have a six-game winning streak dating back to last season. The host Rainbows, from Oahu, have won their last 13 home games.

What will give? Hawaii hopes it's not its defense, which held Arkansas-Little Rock to 28 first-half points in Friday's 81-65 season-opening victory.

Rainbow coach Riley Wallace had expected a tough test from the up-tempo Trojans on Friday. The defensive struggle with UALR's quick guards didn't materialize, in part due to Hawaii's excellent communication when switching coverage off screens.

UH senior guard Mark Campbell held all-conference guard Nick Zachery to just two points (1 of 10 from the field), well off his 16.1-point average from a year ago. Newcomer Michael Kuebler fit nicely into the Rainbows' three-guard scheme, and his 17 points -- including three 3-pointers helped assuage fears that Hawaii's outside shooting might be determined by how hot and open junior guard Carl English could get.

"Our guys hustled and the defense surprised me for what it was so early," Wallace said. "We showed patience and took good shots.

"Sunday, we'll need more of the same. They (the Islanders) have size and athleticism. They have a couple of 6-7 guys, a 6-8 guy and some 6-9 guys. The good thing is they can't all be on the court at the same time."

Friday, it wasn't the big men who did most of the damage in Corpus Christi's 83-76 victory over Cal State Fullerton. Islander junior guards Brian Evans and Travis Bailey combined for 46 points on 15-of-21 shooting from the floor.

The key for Hawaii will be to again slow the guard penetration and to limit good passes inside. Offensively and defensively, the Rainbows need another big game from junior center Haim Shimonovich, who is coming off a career-high 18-point game against Little Rock.

"I thank my teammates for passing me the ball inside," said Shimonovich, who added eight rebounds and three assists. "Without that, I wouldn't score any points."

"When he says 'Thanks,' I tell him that whenever I see his number, I'm going to get him the ball," said English, who finished with 15 points in the opener. "Sometimes you worry when you pass it in there, but I know our big men will catch it, especially Haim.

"We lost a lot of scoring power from the outside, so we need to get him the ball more. That's what we've been focusing on. And he shot 13 free throws. If we can get him on the line that much, we'll be all right."

Hawaii will also need a little more production from its other two big men, junior forward Phil Martin (eight points, four rebounds) and sophomore forward Nkeruwem "Tony" Akpan (four points, five rebounds, two blocks). Martin was hampered by two early fouls and played just 16 minutes; Akpan's presence inside keyed several big defensive stops in stepping in for Martin.

"Tony has a great future," Shimonovich said.

The Rainbows will need to key on sophomore forward Corey Lamkin, who is capable of dominating the boards. As a freshman, he set a school record with 21 rebounds against Texas-Pan American.

UH basketball

What: Hawaiian Airlines Tip-Off Tournament
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
Today: Consolation -- Cal State Fullerton (0-1) vs. Arkansas-Little Rock (0-1), 5 p.m.; Championship -- Hawaii (1-0) vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (1-0), 7 p.m.
Radio: Hawaii game only, live, 1420-AM
TV: Hawaii game only, live, KFVE-TV
Tickets: $7-$16
Parking: $3

UH Athletics

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