’Bows to travel
far to get
on TV

Hawaii will be on the road
for 10 more days for the nationally
televised game

By Jason Kaneshiro

The cost of a little more national exposure will include a trip to Northeast Ohio for the Hawaii basketball team.

Hawaii drew Kent State of the Mid-American Conference for its game for ESPN's Bracket Busters on Saturday, Feb. 22, with the promise of a national audience and perhaps a boost in the eyes of the NCAA selection committee.

"It's a tough trip for us, but we're willing to do it to draw attention to our program and to the WAC," UH coach Riley Wallace said yesterday.

The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2, giving the Rainbows two appearances on the network. Their game at Tulsa the following week is the other.

Hawaii agreed to be designated as a road team when the 18-team event was announced in August.

"(WAC) commissioner (Karl Benson) did it because people were complaining about not getting enough TV time, so they lined this thing up," Wallace said. "But I prefer to play Kent State in Hawaii, obviously, because we're good at home.

"If we think we're good enough to get in the (NCAA) tournament then we have to beat people like Kent State."

Hawaii has four WAC games to worry about before looking ahead to Kent State, which made noise in last year's NCAA Tournament by advancing to the Elite Eight.

The Rainbows (13-5 overall, 6-4 WAC) arrived in Ruston, La., yesterday and take on Louisiana Tech on Thursday. They then head to Dallas for a game at Southern Methodist on Saturday.

After home games with San Jose State and Nevada, the Bracket Busters matchup will send the Rainbows on their second 10-day road trip of the season.

The team spent a week and a half on the road for a trio of WAC games last month. They'll do the same after the Bracket Busters game, staying on the mainland for games at Tulsa and Rice.

"I don't think we've done that before," Wallace said of having two extended road trips so close together.

Wallace said the Rainbows might have been sent to Nebraska to face nationally ranked Creighton for Bracket Busters if not for a 1-5 record on the road this season. The Blue Jays, ranked 13th in this week's Associated Press poll, host WAC leader Fresno State in its Bracket Busters game.

"By losing a couple on the road that we maybe shouldn't have, that's what put us (at Kent State), otherwise we'd get Creighton," Wallace said.

Although playing a ranked opponent might have done more for Hawaii's national reputation, Kent State isn't exactly a weakling.

The Golden Flashes are 15-2 overall and 8-1 in the Mid-American Conference despite losing four senior captains and their head coach after last year's NCAA Tournament run.

Jim Christian took over as Kent State's coach after Stan Heath bolted for Arkansas and has the Flashes well on their way to their fifth consecutive 20-win season.

Kent State is led by forward Antonio Gates, who averages 21 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Junior guard Eric Haut scores 15.5 points per game and is shooting 52 percent behind the 3-point line.

"We are very excited to get the chance to play such an excellent ball club in Hawaii," Christian said. "It will be a tremendous challenge for our team. Hawaii is a well-coached program with an excellent basketball tradition."

Benson was also pleased with the outcome of the Bracket Busters pairings, especially considering that three games involving WAC teams will be on national television. The Fresno State-Creighton game and Tulsa's game at Gonzaga are also slated to air on ESPN2.

The Tulsa-Gonzaga game was the only game guaranteed to be shown nationally when the event was announced. Louisiana Tech's game with Northern Iowa will be televised regionally.

"The fact that both the Hawaii and Fresno State games are part of the ESPN national package has made this a home run for the WAC," Benson said.

Benson added that although the Bracket Busters has been marketed as an opportunity for mid-major conferences to enjoy a day in the spotlight, the WAC shouldn't be lumped into that category.

"I would continue to contest that the WAC is not a mid-major conference," Benson said during yesterday's WAC teleconference. "Any conference that ... sends multiple teams to the NCAA Tournament and wins games in the NCAA Tournament is not a mid-major.

"By playing in this event we perhaps are being labeled as that, but I'll continue to argue that the WAC is not a mid-major conference."

English slips in Wooden watch: It was a good news-bad news kind of day for UH guard Carl English.

The junior picked up his second WAC player of the week award of the season yesterday, but was not listed among the Top 30 midseason nominees for the Wooden Award, presented annually to the nation's top player.

English, the WAC's leading scorer at 20.9 points per game, was among the 50 players named to the John R. Wooden Preseason All-American team and is still eligible to win the award.

English racked up 58 points in wins over Rice and Tulsa last week to move into ninth place on UH's career scoring list with 1,028 points. He passed Reggie Cross (1,013) last week and is 42 points behind Anthony Carter for eighth place.

UH Athletics

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