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Somebody’s gotta win

Like it or not, the Hawaii basketball team finds itself in a showdown for last place in the Western Athletic Conference on Saturday.

The Warriors will face Louisiana Tech in a WAC game between the only winless teams in the conference. It is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. (Hawaii time) at the Thomas Assembly Center in Ruston, La.

Hawaii is 9-8 overall and 0-5 in the WAC; LaTech is 9-9 and 0-4.

And yes, being in eighth place in the nine-team WAC does have meaning. Only the top eight teams in the final standings qualify for the WAC Tournament.

After opening the season 9-3 against non-conference competition, the Warriors have since lost five consecutive WAC games by an average margin of 16.4 points per game.

“I’ve said from day one, this is a year that maybe is not going to be based on wins and losses; I think it needs to be based on effort and growth,” Hawaii head coach Gib Arnold said.

Hawaii’s latest loss came in the form of an 82-64 road defeat at New Mexico State on Thursday. It was the program’s 15th consecutive road loss. The Warriors trailed by as many as 30 points in the second half of that game, but cut it down to 16 in the closing seconds.

Arnold said some of the players who were on the court for that final flurry will likely see more playing time on Saturday, including freshmen reserves Trevor Wiseman and Bo Barnes, and junior Miah Ostrowski.

The only consistent Warrior of late has been junior guard Zane Johnson, who scored a career-high 25 in the last game, and is now averaging 15.1 points per game. He continues to lead the WAC with 49 3-pointers and a .900 free throw percentage.

Three other Warriors are averaging double-figure points: senior forward Bill Amis (12.6 points, 5.6 rebounds per game), senior point guard Hiram Thompson (11.3 points, 3.0 assists per game) and sophomore forward Joston Thomas (10.9 points, 5.4 rebounds per game.

Also, sophomore center Vander Joaquim is contributing 7.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. In the five WAC losses, he is averaging 12.0 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.

LaTech is in a similar frustrating situation. The Bulldogs made 12 3-pointers in their last game, but missed a crucial one in the closing seconds of a 79-74 home loss to San Jose State on Thursday.

The Bulldogs have two of the top individual players in the WAC in 5-foot-11 guard DeAndre Brown and 6-7 forward Olu Ashaolu.

Brown is averaging 16.4 points per game and has made 38 3-pointers this season; Ashaolu is averaging 14.7 points and 93 rebounds per game.

Here is assistant coach Brandyn Akana’s scouting report on LaTech (which was recorded before Thursday’s games):

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