UH-Tulsa rivalry heats up

By Jason Kaneshiro

Last year, Hawaii and Tulsa met at the Stan Sheriff Center with first place in the Western Athletic Conference at stake.

When the teams tip off tonight, it's all about survival.

"Tulsa has always been a great rivalry for us," Hawaii guard Carl English said. "They're struggling a little bit, but they'll be ready for us."

The Rainbows (12-5, 5-4 WAC) host the Golden Hurricane needing to protect their home floor to stay within shouting distance of the league leaders.

Tulsa (11-6, 4-4) was the overwhelming favorite to win the conference in the preseason polls, but stumbled early in WAC play and took a header in a stunning 58-57 loss at San Jose State on Thursday.

Now to avoid falling below .500 in the WAC, the Golden Hurricane must beat a Hawaii team that has owned its number lately and has won 23 consecutive home games.

"When Tulsa comes to town you throw the book out," Hawaii coach Riley Wallace said. "They will be ready to play and we will be ready to play. It'll be a Tulsa-Hawaii rivalry game."

Tonight's game has also been designated a "white out" by the UH athletic department. Fans are encouraged to wear white shirts to the game. The last time the school held a white out was for last year's Tulsa game, which the Rainbows pulled out 86-85 before a sellout crowd.

About 1,800 tickets remained for tonight's game after the close of business yesterday.

"That for us is just amazing," English said of the white out. "It gives us the adrenaline to keep going and it's just an amazing event out there. It's what you play college basketball for."

UH swept the season series with Tulsa last year and has won the last four meetings between the teams. Two of those wins came in the WAC tournament championship game at the Donald W. Reynolds Center in Tulsa.

The winner of tonight's game will keep pace with a pack of contenders chasing Fresno State (15-3, 8-1). The loser drops into the league's second tier.

The Hurricane returned four starters from last year's 27-7 squad that ended its season with an 87-82 loss to Kentucky in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Forward Kevin Johnson and guard Dante Swanson were preseason All-WAC picks and lead a Tulsa senior class that has a .768 winning percentage during its tenure.

Three Tulsa starters average double figures in scoring, led by Johnson's 15.6 points per game with Jason Parker (14.6) and Swanson (14.4) just behind.

Senior guard Antonio Reed is averaging 7.2 points, but has had some of his biggest games against Hawaii. He hit for 24 in Tulsa's last visit to Honolulu.

"They have the best personnel in the league," Wallace said. "So we have to get out and make sure we honor all five guys because all five can score."

The Golden Hurricane fell behind the Rainbows in the standings with their loss at San Jose State. Tulsa shot 38 percent from the field and couldn't overcome a 10-point halftime deficit.

But if any team can relate to Tulsa's angst this week, it's the Rainbows. Hawaii also lost at San Jose State earlier this season, but responded with a strong effort at Fresno State before losing in the final minute.

"I figure they'll come just like we did at Fresno, really upset that they lost and that they gave one away there," Wallace said. "They'll come fired up and ready to play."

English vaulted back into the scoring lead in the WAC with his 30-point performance in Thursday's 85-70 win over Rice.

While English and Michael Kuebler continue to pace the Rainbows by knocking down jumpers and drawing fouls on drives to the hoop, the inside play of center Haim Shimonovich and forward Phil Martin were keys in the Rainbows snapping their three-game losing streak.

The Rainbows and Golden Hurricane will also keep an eye on Fresno State's game at second-place Nevada (10-8, 5-3) today.

"I don't see anybody out of it," Wallace said. "If Fresno goes up there and wins at Reno then they're in command. They drop down to two losses, then you've got some people that can still come up."

Tulsa at Hawaii

When: Today, 7 p.m.

Where: Stan Sheriff Center


Radio: Live, 1420-AM


Tickets: Lower level, $15/$16;
Upper level (adult) $11/$12;
Upper level (student, UH) $7;
Super rooter $8

Probable starters

Tulsa (11-6, 4-4 WAC)

Ht. Pts. Reb. Ast.
G Antonio Reed (Sr.) 5-10 7.2 2.1 4.1
G Jason Parker (Jr.) 6-2 14.6 2.7 3.5
G Dante Swanson (Sr.) 5-10 14.4 4.4 2.9
F Kevin Johnson (Sr.) 6-8 15.6 7.3 1.0
F Charlie Davis (Sr.) 6-7 6.6 7.4 1.1
HAWAII (12-5, 5-4 WAC)

Ht. Pts. Reb. Ast.
G Mark Campbell (Sr.) 6-4 5.2 3.2 6.1
G Michael Kuebler (Jr.) 6-5 12.9 2.9 2.4
G Carl English (Jr.) 6-5 20.5 5.6 2.2
F Phil Martin (Jr.) 6-8 9.6 4.9 0.5
C Haim Shimonovich (Jr.) 6-11 8.9 8.1 2.8

Notes: English is the leading scorer in the WAC at 20.5 points per game. He became the 10th Hawaii player to score 1,000 points with a 30-point performance against Rice on Thursday. ... Johnson is sixth in the WAC in scoring and leads the conference in blocked shots (2.18 per game). ... Hawaii has won its last 23 home games and 34 of the last 35. ... Hawaii leads the series 7-6 and has won the last four meetings. ... Forward Nkeruwem Akpan is Hawaii's top reserve, averaging 7.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. ... Tulsa's top reserve is sophomore swingman Jarius Glenn (10.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg). ... Parker leads the WAC in free-throw percentage (62 of 70).

UH Athletics

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