Savo, McIntyre, Burneika
bid fans aloha
English helps Rainbows crush Rice
on Senior Night, 79-50
By Jack Danilewicz
Sunday, Feb. 24, 2002
HONOLULU -- For awhile on Saturday night, it looked as if Carl English never got the memo. This, after all, was supposed to be Senior Night.
"I told him (English), hey, 'pass the ball, it's senior night" mused Mindaugas Burneika. "But it was all in fun."
And it was all by design, to hear English tell it. Indeed, on a night when Burneika, Predrag Savovic and Mike McIntyre made their final appearance at the Stan Sheriff Center, it was English who was the best player on the floor in the Rainbow Warriors' 79-50 rout of Rice.
"I told them I was going to send them out with a bang," English said. "I was thinking about the pressure they were under and I wanted to come out as I did against Tulsa. I knew they would be riding on a lot of emotion in front of a crowd like this. I picked up some of the slack and they did their job in the second half. It was just so much fun to be out there with them."
The win was Hawaii's 23rd in its last 24 home games and its 16th in a row at home in WAC play. Above all, the Rainbow Warriors (23-4, 14-2) own a half-game lead over Tulsa (23-5, 14-3), which beat San Jose State, 82-72, on Saturday night.
Two nights' after a 28-point effort against Tulsa, English scored a game-high 21 points on 5-of-7 three-point shooting (he was 6 of 9 overall) and gathered in five rebounds. All five of his three-pointers came during the first half when Hawaii established command en route to a 37-24 lead at intermission. He made two just 21 seconds apart in helping Hawaii to an early 14-6 lead.
"Carl carried us and he's going to have to carry us a lot after these guys are gone," said Wallace. "He had that feel tonight and he wanted to show what he could do."
While English had a stellar game, the outgoing trio was not without their share of promising moments. Burneika had a monster of a second half, scoring 13 of his 20 points after the break.
He was 6 of 11 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds in 30 minutes. And while his rim-rattling dunk to finish a fast break (which gave Hawaii a 45-30 advantage) in the second half wasn't the most significant play of the night, it was the play that best typified the Rainbow Warriors' dominance.
"It was emotional and it was sad - very sad," said Burneika of Senior Night.
Savovic, a candidate for WAC Player of the Year honors, finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, while tying Mark Campbell with a game-high six assists. With a pair of three-pointers - his 161st and 162nd of his career - he became the Rainbow Warriors' all-time leader, passing Alika Smith (1994-98) in the schools' annals.
"We played for fun tonight and we played for the great people who came out to see us," Savovic said. "It means a lot for us mainly because we know we have to keep winning."
McIntyre, who was an uncharacteristic 0 for 12 from the field for the game, finished with six points, but drew sustained applause from the energetic crowd of 9,010 while at the free throw line, where he went 6
"You could see Mike was pressing and Savo was trying to get his, but once we got by that (juncture), they were all playing together and they did a good job," said Wallace.
Rice (10-17, 5-12) was led by Jason McKreith, who scored 13 points on 6 of 12 shooting from the field. Omar-Seli Mance tallied 11 points, while Michael Harris recorded his 12th double-double of the season with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Behind English, Hawaii was at its most efficient, offensively, committing a season-low three turnovers in the first half, while compiling 10 assists (out of 13 first-half field goals). Hawaii shot 41.9 percent for the first half and 46.2 percent from behind the arc.
Solid defense and good three-point shooting have been Hawaii's forte to date and Saturday's performance was cut from the same cloth.
"We play good defense, we get after people," Wallace said. "I've had good teams through the years, but I didn't have seven that could shoot like this team. We've had seven good athletes and have gone even deeper than that, but we haven't had seven who could shoot like this team, especially from the perimeter. And that's what makes this team more special."
For the Rainbow Warriors, a third appearance in the NCAA Tournament appears to be coming more and more into focus. Hawaii closes its WAC season with games at Fresno State and Nevada on Thursday and Saturday.
The WAC Tournament begins March 5 in Tulsa. Considering that no WAC regular-season champion has ever been passed over by the selection committee, the Rainbow Warriors figure to guarantee themselves a berth in the tournament with a road sweep next week.
The only scenario Wallace is tracking right now is the Rainbow Warriors' win total, however.
"We just have to keep winning," Wallace said. "We have to put up big numbers so they (NCAA selection committee) can't turn us down."