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Hawaii ready for ‘hell’

Brian McInnis
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Hawaii point guard Hiram Thompson expects to be under a lot of pressure from Central Arkansas tonight.

His team might not be inflicting "40 Minutes of Hell" yet. But with Corliss Williamson roaming the sideline, Central Arkansas will certainly try.

"The Big Nasty" is the new coach of UCA (1-1), which takes on unbeaten Hawaii (3-0) at 7:30 p.m. at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Though the execution might not be the same, expect some flashbacks of the end-to-end hurting the Williamson-led Arkansas Razorbacks put on foes en route to the 1994 Rainbow Classic title. The former NBA veteran and college All-American wants to instill the same panic through a relentless pressing game, now vicariously through his players.

"That’s the style of basketball we want to play at Central Arkansas," Williamson said soon after the Bears arrived in Honolulu on Wednesday night. "We’re going to be able to play up-tempo. We don’t have the personnel to do it for a full 40 minutes, so we’re going to have to pick and choose our spots, when to do that."

He played that manic brand of ball, dubbed "40 Minutes of Hell," for Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson, helping the 1993-94 Razorbacks go 31-3 and capture the 1994 NCAA championship. It was largely thanks to the muscle and hustle of the 6-foot-7 Williamson, who averaged 20.4 points and 7.7 rebounds that year.


» WHERE AND WHEN: Stan Sheriff Center, 7:30 p.m.
» TV: KFVE, Ch. 5
» NOTE: Tickets for the UH men’s game are good for free admission to the UH women’s basketball game vs. Cal State Northridge at 5 p.m.

The following season, Williamson’s Razorbacks defeated Iowa 101-92 to win the Rainbow Classic, helping christen the first-year Sheriff Center on the way to a national runner-up finish. He was named the tournament’s most outstanding player, while teammates Corey Beck and Scotty Thurman were on the all-tournament team.

Easy, then, to understand why the Arkansas native would want to bring his first Division I team back.

"We had a great time," Williamson said. "Playing in the tournament was a lot of fun, I had a chance to attend one of the luaus. I remember we got the old film, highlight video that year, had the coconut bra and the grass skirt dance. You know, we had some fun, and I really enjoyed it. It was good over here."

Williamson was in the NBA as recently as 2007 with the Sacramento Kings, and looks essentially like the same player who provided valuable minutes for the 2004 NBA champion Detroit Pistons.

"I’m glad he’s not playing. I’m glad he’s coaching," Hawaii coach Gib Arnold said. "Anybody with the nickname ‘The Big Nasty,’ you probably don’t want to go up against. But I’m sure he’ll have his team playing really, really hard. He’s got them pressing and playing aggressively and I wouldn’t expect anything less from one of his teams."

The Rainbows anticipate the Bears will do it for the majority of the 40-minute game. Since winning the 47th Rainbow Classic early Tuesday morning, UH has gotten in extra work on its transition game.

"We’re working on our fullcourt zone defense, and fullcourt man," freshman reserve point guard Bobby Miles said. "But Coach got us ready for it where all of us are in shape, so we should be good.

"They go hard. We have to come out, play defense, get up and down with them, but not play into their type of style. Get into our style," Miles added.

The Bears, who are in their first full season of Division I, have an 87-46 win over Division III Hendrix College, and a 73-71 loss at home to Missouri-Kansas City. UH and Central Arkansas have never played.

Senior guard Imad Qahwash leads UCA with 21.0 points per game. Two other players, forward Chris Henson and 6-foot-8 center Carlos Dos Santos, average double-figure scoring.

Hawaii is 3-0 for the first time since 2004-05. The Rainbows are led by senior point guard Hiram Thompson, the reigning Western Athletic Conference Player of the Week, with 18.0 points and 4.0 assists per game. Senior forward Bill Amis is averaging 16.0 ppg and 8.0 rpg, while freshman guard Bo Barnes adds 13.3 ppg and sophomore forward Joston Thomas 12.7 ppg.


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