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[ UH BASKETBALL ]
Rice at Hawaii
When: Tomorrow, 7:05 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
TV: Live, KFVE (Ch. 5)
Radio: Live, KKEA 1420-AM
Tickets: $15-20 (adult); $3-5 (students); $5 (Super Rooter/Manoa Maniacs). Parking $3
"Some of the new guys didn't have to experience that last year. They knocked us out of our chance to go to the NCAA (Tournament), so I know for the returners this game's going to mean a lot to us."
The Rainbows (10-5, 2-5 WAC) will try to avenge the loss and end their current three-game losing streak in the process when they face Rice (10-5, 5-2) tomorrow night at the Stan Sheriff Center. Tipoff is set for 7:05 p.m.
The Rainbows return home this week after losing two close games on the road last week. Their skid began with a loss to Louisiana Tech in UH's last appearance in the Sheriff Center on Jan. 15.
While Rice, currently third in the standings, is trying to keep pace with Nevada and UTEP in the race for the WAC regular-season title, Hawaii is simply trying to get back on track.
"If you keep thinking about (the losing streak), chances are you're going to probably continue on that streak," UH senior Jeff Blackett said. "We just have to put it behind us. We know what we're capable of. We've beaten some real good teams in USC, St. Mary's, Southern Illinois, so we know we can win big ballgames. The WAC season is still young and we can still do some damage."
Although they've dropped to eighth place in the WAC standings, the 'Bows aren't hitting the panic button just yet.
"Everybody's still got their heads held high. I think everybody's confidence is where it should be right now," said Sensley, who averaged 18.3 points and nine rebounds in three games against Rice last season.
"It's basically just playing 40 minutes. We tend to play a half or maybe 35 minutes. We have to learn to play a whole game."
UH coach Riley Wallace said he hasn't settled on a starting lineup for tomorrow's game as the 'Bows look to avoid losing consecutive home games for the first time since the 2000-01 season. Guard Deonte Tatum did not practice yesterday. Wallace said Tatum had been feeling faint and might be coming down with the flu.
Jake Sottos, who made his first career start at UTEP on Saturday, was able to practice at full speed after resting his injured right foot on Monday.
The Rainbows and Owls have split their last six meetings, with Rice winning the latest battle when a putback by Phil Martin rimmed out in the final seconds of last year's WAC tournament contest.
Rice's duo of senior forward Michael Harris and guard Jason McKrieth combined for 48 points in that game and will be focal points for the Rainbows again tomorrow.
Harris, the WAC preseason Player of the Year, enters the game second in the conference in scoring (19.7 points per game), rebounding (11.4 per game) and field-goal percentage (59.1 percent). His rebounding average also ranks him fourth in the country. He tallied 47 points and 17 boards in Rice's losses at Connecticut and Syracuse earlier this season.
UH is 8-1 against Rice in Honolulu and this will be the Owls' last visit before leaving for Conference USA next season. And despite UH's recent slide, the Owls aren't looking past the Rainbows.
"Anybody can beat anybody, that's what makes the WAC a scary and dangerous conference," Harris said. "Because if you don't bring your 'A' game, or disrespect another team, you can get beat really badly."
"Since the conference in changing, this is everyone's last year in Hawaii and no one here has won in Hawaii yet. It would be a good thing to finish off on a strong note."
Keeping Harris, a powerful player with a soft shooting touch, under those figures will be the goal of the UH big men.
"The great players get theirs, you just have to make them work hard to get it and not shoot the same percentage," Wallace said. "We have to do it without fouling, but we have to make them work hard for everything they get."
Said Blackett: "Any time you're playing probably the best player in the league it's got to be a team effort. We're going to throw a lot of different looks at him, different people are going to be guarding him so we all have to do our part and hold him under his averages."
While Harris goes to work in the paint, McKrieth forces defenses to respect the perimeter, averaging 13.4 points on 48 percent shooting from the field. He recorded the first triple-double in school history when he posted 15 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists against Southern Methodist on Dec. 29.
"They're a very good basketball team," Wallace said. "Some people had them picked to win it and they're right up there competing for it. So they're going to come in here ready for us."
Notes: With the Sheriff Center and the UH practice gyms booked, Rice practiced at the Mid-Pacific Institute gym yesterday. Owls coach Willis Wilson said practicing at a high school gym didn't bother him and the team will work out in the Sheriff Center today. ... This year's class of inductees to the Bank of Hawaii UH Sports Circle of Honor will be introduced at halftime of tomorrow's game.