Rainbow Classic: Akpan sparks Hawaii over Bradley

Nkeruwen "Tony" Akpan (left) had a Classic night, and his timing could not have been better. Akpan's finest performance as a Rainbow helped Hawaii roll over Bradley, 90-69, Friday night.

Akpan's big boost off bench
sparks
Hawaii over Bradley

By Paul Honda
Senior Writer
Friday, Dec. 27, 2002

HONOLULU -- There's something to be said for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and especially in the way those holidays bring families together.

The
University of Hawaii men's basketball team knows unity better than every now that the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic has tipped off. Twenty-four of the Rainbows' 36 field goals came on assists in a 90-69 win over Bradley Friday night.

A boisterous crowd of 7,366 saw the Rainbows advance to the semifinals.
Hawaii (5-1) will battle Tennessee Tech (6-4), which upended Alcorn State 62-50 in an earlier game, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

Two more opening-round games tip off Friday night.
Butler meets Texas-Pan American at 5 p.m., followed by Western Kentucky and Chicago State at 7:30 p.m.

For
Hawaii, unity is a must. With players from across the globe, it was none other than  Tony Akpan who sparkled in the spotlight. The 6-8, 235-pound sophomore from Nigeria hustled for 25 points and eight rebounds in his finest performance as a ‘Bow.

"I was so lucky today," said Akpan, who glowed in the standing ovation given by fans during a time out. "That is big time for me. The people of
Hawaii are great fans."

Haim Shimonovich, the 6-10, 265-pound Israelite, added 20 points and a team-high nine rebounds. "I know Tony can play like this. It's a matter of him focusing and us passing the ball," the junior center said. "I always look for him, and he looks for me."


Haim Shimonovich

The two were just a part of the equation in what coach Riley Wallace found simply satisfying. "It was, by far, our most complete game of the year," he said. The way the two towers worked and passed on the high and low posts, it could be a foreboding sign of things to come for UH opponents in the Classic.

"When they're playing that well, they're a load with their height and size," Wallace said.

Carl English turned in a stellar game as well, scoring 19 points, grabbing seven boards and dishing five assists. "It was his most complete game of the season," Wallace said.

Point guard Mark Campbell had eight assists and just one turnover. "It should've been more," Shimonovich lamented, recalling his missed shots under the basket. He shot 7 of 13 from the field, while Akpan made 11 of 13, including his first 10 attempts.

The visiting Braves hung close to the ‘Bows despite the pronounced size difference. However, when go-to man Danny Granger sustained a concussion -- the result of a collision under the basket with a teammate -- the tone and complexion of the contest changed.

"Even with Granger, I think we would've won," Shimonovich said. "But I feel sorry for him."


Riley Wallace enjoys the final stats.

"We were up 12 at the time, but when Granger got hurt, the game changed. He could've kept them closer," Wallace noted. "Sometimes a team goes flat, but our guys came up fired up, and the fans were very responsive."

Akpan agreed. "Our intensity on defense helped, and the crowd, too," he said. "Every time we play as a team, it's fun."

Bradley (2-7) led just once, in the opening minute of play, but
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