Rainbows ready for
resurgent Nebraska

Hawaii faces the Huskers with
the pride of the WAC on the line

Count conference pride among the incentives for the Hawaii basketball team entering tomorrow's National Invitation Tournament game with Nebraska.

With a trip to the NIT quarterfinals at stake, the Rainbow Warriors are also looking to continue a banner week for the Western Athletic Conference when they face the Cornhuskers at a sold-out Stan Sheriff Center.

Nebraska at Hawaii

When: Tomorrow, 6 p.m.

Where: Stan Sheriff Center

TV: Live, OC-16

Radio: Live, 1420-AM


Tickets: Sold out, season-ticket holders can pick up preordered tickets from noon to 4 p.m. today at the Stan Sheriff Center box office. Parking: $3.

Hawaii began the WAC's big week with a win at No. 25 Utah State in an NIT first-round game last Wednesday, then kept an eye on conference champion Nevada, which stunned No. 3 Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament yesterday to advance to the Sweet 16.

"It's big for the league," Hawaii coach Riley Wallace said. "We go in and knock off the 25th-ranked team and they go in and knock off (Gonzaga). So with that ... and UTEP playing great against Maryland (on Thursday), it's good for our league. We've been saying it all along and now (the WAC is) getting some recognition.

"Now we have to get after it here and really battle those guys."

A win over Nebraska of the Big 12 conference would propel the Rainbows (20-11) into the NIT quarterfinals for the third time in Wallace's 17 years as head coach. UH lost a road game at Minnesota in the second round of last year's tournament.

The winner will face Michigan or Oklahoma on Wednesday.

Tomorrow's game was officially announced as a sellout yesterday, the first for a UH basketball game since the 2001-02 season. It is also the third straight sellout at the Sheriff Center for an NIT game. The Rainbows packed the arena for their NIT contests against Gonzaga and Fresno State in 1998.

"It'll be nice going out of here with that," UH senior Michael Kuebler said. "You have to kind of keep your head and not play too much to it and try to stay within our game. But I'm sure it'll help us out a lot."

The Rainbows hope the "white out" night crowd can help them get past a Nebraska squad that has already won two NIT games before packed houses.

The Cornhuskers (18-12) knocked off in-state rival Creighton 71-70 in front of 13,483 fans in Omaha on March 16. They then thrilled a home crowd of 10,149 with a 78-70 victory over Niagara on Friday.

Nebraska opened the season 10-1 before struggling to a 6-10 mark in the Big 12. But the Cornhuskers were tantalizingly close to climbing into the upper reaches of the conference standings as they lost five games by five points or fewer in the regular season.

JC guard gives verbal commitment

The Hawaii basketball team has secured a verbal commitment from Matt Gibson, a high-scoring guard from Three Rivers Community College in Missouri.

As a freshman, the 6-foot-4 Gibson led Three Rivers with 25.8 points per game this season while shooting 46 percent from the field and 90 percent from the free-throw line. His scoring average is second in school history, trailing only NBA star Latrell Sprewell of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Gibson's commitment won't become binding until he signs a national letter of intent next month. The late signing period for basketball runs from April 14 to May 19.

Gibson, who is originally from Oklahoma City, will join the Rainbow Warriors as a sophomore for the 2004-05 season and will have three years of eligibility left.

Gibson's addition to the program will likely lead to a bit of confusion next season, when he joins fellow recruit Matt Gipson, a center from North Idaho College who signed with UH in November.

With Gibson's commitment, the Rainbows have one more scholarship available for next year's incoming class.

Among those close losses were an 87-83 overtime defeat at Oklahoma State, a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and a 63-59 loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 tournament.

Still, the Cornhuskers' first winning season under fourth-year head coach Barry Collier was good enough to earn the program's first postseason berth since the 1998-99 season.

"It's been a struggle for him, but he's building it up," Wallace said. "Now he's got a winning record, he's got the NIT and I'm sure he'd love to make a strong showing."

This year's Cornhuskers are led by senior guard Nate Johnson (13.2 points per game) and forward Andrew Drevo (11 ppg). Nebraska was also the top defensive team in the Big 12, allowing 61.6 points per contest in the regular season while holding opponents to 39 percent shooting from the field.

After reviewing tapes of Nebraska games, the Rainbows spent much of yesterday's practice defending a scheme that pulls the big men away from the hoop, opening lanes for back cuts to the basket.

"It's all on reads and it's hard (to defend)," Wallace said. "You really have to be alert and into the game to catch those."

The Rainbows are coming off one of their top shooting performances of the season in their 85-74 victory at Utah State. UH shot 61.8 percent from the field and made eight of 13 3-point attempts to advance to the second round.

"We need to keep playing our game," said Kuebler, who scored 28 points in the win. "We scored a lot of points that game. We probably can't expect to shoot the ball as well as we did, but we definitely can expect to play hard."


E-mail to Sports Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --