Breakdown Hawaii vs. Louisiana Tech

Hawaii (20-3, 11-1) at Louisiana Tech (14-7, 8-3) Saturday, February 9, 12 p.m. Thomas Assembly Center Television: K5 Radio: 1420 KCCN AM

Hawaii (20-3, 11-1) at Louisiana Tech (14-7, 8-3)
Saturday, February 9, 12 p.m.
Thomas Assembly Center
Television: K5
Radio: 1420 KCCN AM


PLAYERS TO WATCH


LOUISIANA TECH

G  3 Gerrod Henderson
(15.4 points per game, 3.2 assists per game)

F 34 Antonio Meeking
(11.4 ppg, 7.6 rebounds per game)

G  24 Darrian Brown
(6.3 rpg, 11.0 ppg)
               
G 21 Marco Cole
(11.9 ppg, shooting 46.5 percent from the field)

F 25 Zach Johnson
(6.3 rpg, 7.0 ppg)


HAWAII

G  1 Predrag Savovic
(19.0 points per game, 45 threepoint field goals in WAC play)

G/F  23 Carl English
(14.2 ppg, shooting 47 percent from the field)

G  15 Mark Campbell
(4.4 assists per game, teamhigh 43 steals)

F  21 Mindaugas Burneika
(9.4 ppg, 3.3 rebounds per game)

F  2 Phil Martin
(9.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg)

G  3 Mike McIntyre
(10.1 ppg, 62 career steals)

C  14 Haim Shimonovich
(8.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg)
 

STORYLINES

Hawaii coach Riley Wallace took his case for a national ranking more directly to the pollsters this past week when he penned a column for College Insider.com.

His Rainbow Warriors then backed up their coach with an impressive showing in their win at SMU on Thursday night, Hawaii's 10th win in its last 13 games away from the Stan Sheriff Center.

With a win at Lousiana Tech, Wallace and the Rainbow Warriors may finally realize their goal of a national ranking. In addition to its WAC-leading 11-1 record, Hawaii is 20-3 overall, its best start in 30 years.

But records and polls aside, Hawaii's greater chore is not merely to continue its winning ways but to be playing its best basketball by the WAC Tournament as they did last season. There is every indication that the Rainbow Warriors are hitting their stride when it counts the most.

And yet the Rainbow Warriors' RPI rating (46th) will only take them so far when it comes time for the NCAA selection committee to hand out at-large bids. Of Hawaii's biggest non-conference victories - Wisconsin (74th in RPI) and Georgia (8th in RPI) - only the Bulldogs can make much of a difference for the Rainbow Warriors, as the Badgers are an average Big Ten team in a year when the conference is down.

Barring an unlikely all-out collapse, Hawaii figures to close out the regular season as conference champions, but the Rainbow Warriors will still need a strong showing at the WAC Tournament to have a chance for an at-large bid should they not win the title game. The best way to lock up an NCAA bid is to win the WAC Tournament and the automatic berth.

To that end, man for man, Hawaii has proven itself as the best team in the league. When the Rainbow Warriors combine good three-point shooting with solid defense, they are tough to beat.

Hawaii currently leads the WAC and is 18th nationally (all games considered) in scoring defense (61.5 points per game), having held ten opponents to 60 points or less. 

Hawaii has been able to run its offense against everyone it has played and is two bad halves (against Colorado State and San Diego State) away from having one blemish. As it is, the Rainbow Warriors' three losses came by a total of nine points. It's perhaps no coincidence that in Hawaii's losses to Colorado State and San Diego State, they had more turnovers than assists.

Individually, senior guard Predrag Savovic has been on a tear as of late, scoring 29 and 31 points, respectively, in Hawaii's wins over UTEP and SMU. With the exception of Fresno State's Melvin Ely, a projected lottery pick in the NBA Draft this spring, Savovic's combination of size and athletic ability make him the toughest match-up in the WAC.

Teams that over commit to defending Savovic invariably struggle to stop Carl English, who is averaging 14.3 points per game. English is coming off a big game at SMU, where he scored 21 points while grabbing nine rebounds to go with five assists.

Louisiana Tech has won four of its last five games, including a 77-53 triumph at San Jose State on Thursday night. The Bulldogs have relied on a trio of performers - Marco Cole, Darrian Brown and Gerrod Henderson - in the back court.

Brown (28 points against Centenary) and Cole (with 27 points against SMU) posted career-highs in the past week, while Henderson needs only two steals to become Louisiana Tech's all-time leader. The Bulldogs are 8-2 at home this year.


KEY QUESTION

Predrag Savovic is averaging 30 points over his last two outings. Can he come up with another big scoring effort against the Bulldogs?


WHAT HAWAII NEEDS TO DO TO WIN

As always, the Rainbow Warriors need to be able to run their offense effectively. When Hawaii takes care of the basketball, it runs the "flex" as well as anybody in the country. The match-up problems that Savovic and English create go a long way in Hawaii's effectiveness on the offensive end.

In the middle, the Rainbow Warriors need sophomore center Haim Shimonovich to avoid getting into foul trouble. His physical presence is sorely missed when he is not able to play his usual amount of minutes.

Point guard Mark Campbell has been the catalyst for the Rainbow Warriors, offensively. Hawaii averages a league-best 17.3 assists thanks in large part to him. In a hostile environment like the Thomas Assembly Center, he will need to bring his "A" game if Hawaii is to earn a win on Saturday.


WHAT LOUISIANA TECH NEEDS TO DO TO WIN

The Bulldogs need to do a good job of defending Hawaii on the perimeter, particularly in contesting the three-point shot. The Rainbow Warriors lead the WAC in three-point shooting, with Predrag Savovic (1st) and Mike McIntyre (third) ranked among league leaders with 45 and 31, respectively, from behind the arc. With 142 three-pointers to date, the Rainbow Warriors are on pace to break last year's school record of 177.

If anyone can disrupt Hawaii's offense, it may be the Bulldogs, who will counter with one of the league's best defenses. Lousiana Tech's opponents are shooting only 38.3 percent from the field in WAC games, and the Bulldogs are first in scoring defense (61.9 ppg.) in league games.

If there's one edge that Louisiana Tech has in this match-up, however, it is in the area of rebounding. The Bulldogs lead the WAC and are fifth nationally in rebounding margin (+9.1).


KEY MATCH-UP

Hawaii's Predrag Savovic versus Louisiana Tech's Darrian Brown: Both players are peaking at the right time, with the WAC Tournament in the not-so-distant future.

Savovic earned Player of the Week honors for the second time this season after scoring a careerhigh 32 points in Hawai‘i's 7560 win over UTEP on Thursday. He was 10of15 from the field in the contest. His previous career high was 31 points set against UTEP last year.

Earlier in the week, he scored a teamhigh 20 points in a victory against Boise State and had two steals. In the two games combined, he shot 16of32 from the field, 6of12 from threepoint range, 14of17 from the free throw line, and averaged 5.5 rebounds.     

Brown, meanwhile, averaged 18.5 points and 10.0 rebounds for the Bulldogs in games against  Centenary (a 84-71 loss) and SMU (a 70-66 win). He was 14of20 from the field, 4of7 from threepoint range and made all five of his free throw attempts. He also set a careerhigh with 28 points and 13 rebounds in the game at Centenary.

Both players bring a lot of energy to their respective clubs, but Savovic is the seasoned veteran of the two and, although he won't have the height advantage he has enjoyed against other guards in the WAC, I like h


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