Kalani Simpson


By Kalani Simpson

Wallace optimistic
now that he’s home

WHEN the Rainbows trudged bleary-eyed off the last plane of this last, now-infamous road trip, flight attendants, two of them, separately, approached Riley Wallace and said, "These are the greatest bunch of kids I've ever traveled with."

In a matter of speaking, yes.

They're great. They're courteous. They're smart. When the understaffed drink cart slowed to a frazzled standstill, one of the guys even got up and offered to help hand out peanuts, for crying out loud.

They straighten their hotel rooms, they leave tips on the bed.

"They do everything right," Wallace said. "So they're a very, very good bunch. And you know they're good students.

"And we're coming up short on the road," Wallace said, "so they're down, there's no question."

THE BRACKET BUSTERS. It seemed so exciting. Now it seems like a few frequent flyer miles too many.

"The concept is good," Wallace is saying. "It's not good for us right now, because we've got another road game."

And Kent, Ohio, is within driving distance of Canada, and here comes the Carl and Phil fan club. That could be good, or it could be bad. You never know. Michael Kuebler had 27 points at Louisiana Tech. A few nights later in Dallas, with his dad in the stands, Wallace noted, Kuebler came up with the donut.

"He was in my office, he and Carl English," Wallace said. "And I said, 'At my age I could play a game right now and score one point. I know I could. How in the hell could you play 30-some minutes and not score a point?'

"He had no answer to that."

When he has one, that's when you start worrying.

"We've got kids who are developing," Wallace said. "Don't get me wrong, I'm not down on my team. They are developing. You know, some of them are taking longer than I anticipated to get there. But they're working at it."

It's just a little easier, with a group like this, even in times like these. Yes, they keep losing on the road. Yes, there are no answers, not really. But they're back now. Home. And as bad as the road has been, well, they embrace the other half of that history.

Wallace wants to talk about the home winning streak now, the 24 straight, the record, the fans. The renewal waiting Saturday night in the warm glow of the Stan Sheriff Center. He wants to see this group win again. He knows it will happen. They all do.

"These guys are resilient," he said. "They bounce back. I guarantee you, you won't know that they lost two games in a row on the road on Saturday when they play San Jose. If the crowd comes, shows life, and they do, we have a good nucleus of fans now, these kids will play like champions."

He'll take that, with this bunch.

"We're very proud of this team," Wallace said. "We think we've still got a long way to go before the season's over, and we can put it together, and we can win that (WAC) tournament. That's our goal."

Anything seems possible, back here on home soil.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at

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