Living two time zones from its nearest opponent, Hawaii is used
to traveling insane distances. Earlier this season, the Rainbow
Warriors went from Boise State to play Southern Illinois on
national television, only to travel to Texas-El Paso on
three-and-a-half hours sleep for a crucial Western Athletic
Conference game.

But this week’s journey was even more of a challenge.

The Rainbow Warriors beat Nebraska in Manoa (near Honolulu),
Hawaii, in the NIT second round on Monday night and went straight
to the airport. After a two-hour layover in Salt Lake City, Hawaii
arrived in Detroit at about 6 p.m. Tuesday and went to Crisler
Arena for a shoot-around.

While the Rainbow Warriors desperately wanted to reach the NIT
semifinals for the first time in school history — yesterday
was their fifth quarterfinal appearance — they ran out of gas
in the game’s final 10 minutes.

“(The Wolverines) were running it a little bit more than
what the film showed, and it wore us down,” Hawaii coach
Riley Wallace said. “And it showed.”

The Rainbow Warriors did an excellent job running their
offensive sets in the first half and went into the locker room down
just six, but they didn’t have the energy in their legs to do
the same in the second half. Michigan’s superior athleticism
forced a lot of steals, leading to a plethora of fast-break
points.

“That’s something that we were able to do earlier in
the year that we were not able to do in the Big Ten
conference,” Michigan guard Daniel Horton said. “Coach
(Tommy) Amaker said our first option on defense is to steal the
basketball.”

Wallace said that he has never been prouder of his team despite
the loss because they had to travel more than any other team in
school history. The team’s leading scorer, Michael Kuebler
— who scored 19 last night — is also an academic
All-American and holds a job on the side.

“Those guys are what the student-athlete is all
about,” Wallace said.

While the Rainbow Warriors aren’t going to New York, they
are going someplace that may be better: home.

“It’s the greatest place to live,” Wallace
said. “I’m an Illinois boy — I like the Midwest.
But there’s no place like Hawaii.”

Back in style: Still not fully recovered from the separated
shoulder he suffered at the Big Ten Tournament, Lester Abram
didn’t think he would see any action in last night’s
game.

Not only did Abram play, but the sophomore led the Wolverines in
scoring, finishing with 17 points and five rebounds.

Abram checked into the game with 13:35 remaining in the first
half and showed few signs of rust. A minute later, freshman guard
Dion Harris found Abram open in the corner in front of the Hawaii
bench, and Abram drained the 3-pointer. Shortly after that, Abram
stole a pass in the backcourt from Hawaii guard Jason Carter and
took the ball coast-to-coast for a dunk.

“I didn’t think I was going to play at all,”
Abram said. “I just went out there and was my regular
self.”

Abram went 5-for-7 from the floor in the first half for 12
points. Abram played extended minutes as senior forward Bernard
Robinson was in foul trouble early in the second half.

Notes: Home teams are 28-6 so far in the 2004 NIT … The
NIT will not include a consolation third-place game this year, a
change from recent years.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.