’Bows try to stay
motivated for SJSU

Hawaii will try to avenge
last year’s loss at San Jose

By Jason Kaneshiro

Posting one winning season in 15 years and losing your last eight games in a row isn't exactly the way to build a loyal fan following.

An average of 739 fans pass through the doors of the 5,000-seat Event Center on the San Jose State campus for Spartan basketball games this season, with a high of 916 showing up for last Saturday's loss to SMU.

The numbers certainly don't add up to a big-time college basketball setting, and that's what concerned Hawaii coach Riley Wallace as the Rainbows prepared for today's Western Athletic Conference game with San Jose State.

"The atmosphere is not conducive to getting yourself up and that's what worries you," Wallace said. "We're pounding on them, we're trying to get them fired up, but they have to want to respond."

The Rainbows left for Northern California on Thursday morning with an 11-2 record overall and 4-1 in the WAC. Hawaii is a half-game behind Fresno State, which is 5-1 going into today's action.

Hawaii leads the series with San Jose State 11-6, but five of those losses have come on the road, including last year's 57-53 upset at the Event Center.

Hawaii at San Jose State

When: Today, 5 p.m. (Hawaii time)
Where: The Event Center
TV: None
Radio: Live, 1420-AM
Next game: Jan. 23 at Fresno State

This year's Spartan squad is off to a 3-10 start overall and 0-4 in the WAC. They've lost their last eight in a row and had their leading scorer quit the team last week.

The Rainbows are 1-2 on the road this season and after letting a game slip away already -- a 65-63 overtime loss at Boise State on Jan. 4 -- the Rainbows know their WAC title hopes hinge on avoiding any more stumbles.

"We have to take every game like it's for the conference and play with a lot of high energy and great defense," UH guard Carl English said. "We have to play like we play at home. I can't stress that too much. If we play like we play at home we'll have no problems."

In addition to the wear of travel and the placid atmosphere at the Event Center, Wallace said the Rainbows must guard against letting San Jose State's deliberate offense turn them bleary-eyed.

"They'll hold it 15 to 20 seconds and put you to sleep," Wallace said. "If you don't turn it up when they turn it up they'll beat you."

English leads the WAC in scoring with 20.5 points per game after a 30-point performance in Hawaii's 88-77 win over Fresno State on Monday. He combined with junior Michael Kuebler (12.9 ppg) to hit 10 of Hawaii's 11 3-pointers against Fresno State.

The Rainbows also hold the size advantage inside with 6-foot-10 center Haim Shimonovich averaging 10 points and eight rebounds per game.

"It's hard to prepare for them because if you take away one thing they hurt you somewhere else," San Jose State coach Phil Johnson said.

San Jose State enters the game last in the WAC in 3-point defense. The Spartans have given up 104 treys in 13 games and their opponents are shooting better than 42 percent from beyond the arc.

But Wallace has seen the rim shrink on the road too many times to bank on outside jumpers for scoring.

"We can't live or die with the jump shot over there," he said. "We have to get some inside-outside stuff going."

The Spartans' cause has been hampered of late by the departure of forward Oudie Baker, SJSU's leading scorer (16.4 ppg) and rebounder (6.3 rpg) in its first seven games.

Baker was suspended after returning to school late following the holiday break and decided to leave the team rather than submit to extra running.

Even with Baker gone, senior guard Brandon Hawkins and freshman forward Antonio Lawrence have kept the Spartans close in most of their conference games.

Lawrence posted 15 points and 11 rebounds in a 79-72 loss to SMU last Saturday. The Spartans were within striking distance the entire second half, but couldn't get over the hump.

"Three of the four WAC games we've lost we've had our chances, we were in it down to the wire," Johnson said. "So we have to find something that's a positive that we can hang our hat on and build on. We're scratching and clawing, looking for a way to get better and get a WAC win."

Regents approve deal: The UH Board of Regents approved a three-year contract extension for Wallace at its meeting yesterday on the Big Island.

Wallace's previous contract expired last April. He and the UH administration agreed to terms on a new pact in June.

Wallace, 61, is in his 16th season as head coach at UH. He was also associate coach from 1978 to '81.

Short shots: Hawaii's road trip continues next week with games at Fresno State on Thursday and Nevada next Saturday. The Rainbows have six home dates left on their schedule. The team returns to the Stan Sheriff Center to face Rice on Jan. 30 and Tulsa on Feb. 1. ... A camera crew from MTV is following Tulsa for a documentary to air later this season. Despite the potential distractions, Wallace said he would do the same if presented the opportunity. "We're in a league where you have to get all the exposure you can get," he said. "I think it's a good decision. It can help their recruiting and it can help the league overall." ... Reporters from ESPN Magazine and Sports Illustrated have made arrangements with the UH Sports Media Relations office to do feature stories on English in the coming weeks.

UH Athletics

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