B R E A K D O W N
Tulsa @ Hawaii
By Jack Danilewicz
Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2002
Hawaii (21-4, 12-2) at Tulsa (22-4, 13-2)
Series: Tulsa leads 6-5
Thursday, February 21st, 7 p.m.
The Stan Sheriff Center
Radio: 1420 KCCN AM
PLAYERS TO WATCH
G - #10 Greg Harrington
(5.6 assists per game, 13.7 points per game)
F - #34 Kevin Johnson
(12.9 ppg, 4.6 rebounds per game)
G - #1 Dante Swanson
(13.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
F - #33 Charlie Davis
(7.6 rpg, shooting 58 percent from the field)
G - #3 Antonio Reed
(4.1 apg, 10.9 ppg)
G #1 Predrag Savovic
(20.1 points per game, shooting 39 percent from three-point range)
G/F #23 Carl English
(14.6 ppg, 4.7 rebounds per game)
G #15 Mark Campbell
(4.5 assists per game, 1.7 steals per game)
F #21 Mindaugas Burneika
(9.4 ppg, shooting 43.4 percent from the field)
F #2 Phil Martin
(9.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
G #3 Mike McIntyre
(9.4 ppg, shooting 38 percent from three-point range)
C #14 Haim Shimonovich
(7.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg)
Riley Wallace stopped short of calling Thursday night's game with Tulsa the biggest home date for Hawaii of his coaching tenure. But he did rate it with the Rainbow Warriors' NIT quarterfinal match-up with Fresno State in March of 1998.
The Hawaii coach can only hope that the outcome of Thursday's game doesn't resemble that of the aforementioned Fresno State game, which the Bulldogs had won 85-83 to advance to the NIT Final Four in New York that year.
As an NCAA hopeful, the stakes are obviously higher for the Rainbow Warriors in this match-up, however. The winner obviously earns not only a leg up in the race, but first consideration among the NCAA tournament committee among WAC schools when at-large berths are up for consideration. The number one seed in next month's WAC Tournament (March 5-9) is also at stake.
And while the ability to win on the road has set this Hawaii team apart, the Rainbow Warriors have also been able to take care of business in the Stan Sheriff Center, as always.
Wallace's team has won 14 straight conference games at home and 21 of its last 22 overall. Senior guard Predrag Savovic remains Hawaii's leader - he has scored over 20 points 11 times this year - and needs just five three-point field goals to tie the all-time school record of 161 set by Alika Smith in the 1997-98 season.
Hawai'i, whose 21-4 start is its best since the 1971-72 season when it was 23-2 (and finished the season 24-3), has lost its four games by a total of 13 points and failed to reach the 60-point plateau in each. Tulsa, meanwhile, has won seven straight games for the second time this year.
The Golden Hurricane's first streak was snapped by - you guessed it - Hawaii, which won 90-82 when the teams met last month. Mike McIntyre scored a game-high 22 points off the bench and was largely the difference. Both teams relied on their balance in the first meeting, as each team had five players score in double figures.
Like the Rainbow Warriors, the Golden Hurricane are efficient, offensively, and lead the WAC in scoring (81.8), scoring margin (+12.7), three-point field goals made (7.9), assists (17.7) and steals (8.5). The Golden Hurricane are also the WAC's best shooting team and lead the conference in three categories - they are shooting 48.0 percent from the field (15th best in the nation), 75.7 percent from the free throw line (12th best in the nation) and 41.9 percent from three-point range (fourth best in the nation).
Hawai'i counters with the WAC's best defense. The Rainbow Warriors are ranked 16th nationally in scoring defense (61.4 points per game) and have held 11 opponents to under 60 points this season.
Point guard Greg Harrington has been the catalyst (he has 519 career assists) for the Golden Hurricane, while Kevin Johnson has developed into a consistent scorer, reaching double figures in all 15 conference games this year.
Harrington's back court-mate Dante Swanson leads the WAC and the nation in three-point field goal percentage (.548) and complements both Harrington and Johnson's production.
In a matchup as close as this one, the team with the better bench figures to have an advantage. Hawaii gets the edge in this area as McIntyre and Mindaugas Burneika have been playing some of their best basketball of the season as of late.
Can Hawaii log its first sellout since the 1997-98? As earlier mentioned, the Rainbow Warriors have rewarded the fans that have shown up, winning 21 of their last 22 at home, including a league-best 14 in succession in WAC play.
WHAT HAWAII NEEDS TO DO TO WIN
Hawaii needs to be able to run the "flex" offense. Tulsa really gets after it on the defensive end, overplaying the passing lanes and disrupting the opposition's offensive flow. The Rainbow Warriors, meanwhile, play well against teams that overplay them (Georgia, Fresno State, SMU, Louisiana Tech, etc.), parlaying backdoor cuts into easy lay-ups.
In fact, the only team to stop Hawaii from running its offense with precision to date has been the Rainbow Warriors themselves. Indeed, in three of Hawaii's four losses, the Rainbow Warriors had more turnovers than assists as unforced errors sealed their fate. If Campbell can get Hawaii into its offense, the Rainbow Warriors should be in position to win heading into crunch time.
WHAT TULSA NEEDS TO DO TO WIN
Defend the three-point shot. Hawai'i has made at least seven three-pointers in each of its 12 WAC wins and is second in the WAC in three-pointers made with 170, needing only seven more to break last year's school record of 177.
The image of Mike McIntyre's barrage of three-pointers in last month's Tulsa-Hawaii game is likely to be very much in the minds of the Golden Hurricanes when they take to the floor Thursday night. McIntyre was 6 of 8 from behind the arc and Hawaii 9 of 20 for the game. The Golden Hurricane will need to do a better job than that to have a chance on the road in this game.
Tulsa will also look to get Greg Harrington untracked. He has had a brilliant career, but was kept in check by the Rainbow Warriors in the first meeting between the schools, managing just two assists (and 13 points) in 26 minutes.
Hawaii point guard Mark Campbell opposite Tulsa point guard Greg Harrington - Both teams pride themselves on their offensive efficiency. The Golden Hurricane are first and Hawaii second in the WAC in assists, which can be traced back to solid play at the point. Harrington and Campbell are arguably the league's most capable at their position.
Both players are the "glue" that holds their teams together, offensively, so something obviously has to give in this match-up. Whoever wins this battle on the defensive end could go a long way in determining the outcome. Whereas Campbell is a relative newcomer to the WAC Harrington is a veteran, having started 95 straight games (including 11 in the post-season) for the Golden Hurricane. Tulsa is 103-30 (.774) in his four seasons.
Hawaii 78, Tulsa 69 -- Hawaii has really had the Golden Hurricane's number as of late and that should continue, at least on this night. With Mike McIntyre and Mindaugas Burneika off the bench, Hawaii's balance should be the difference.
Jack Danilewicz is a College Basketball Analyst for the Rainbow Sports Network.