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Time to go all in

Imagine this was poker, and the Hawaii basketball team has a small chip count.

Now imagine the Warriors calling out the chip leader by uttering the two gutsy words: “all in.”

All that’s left to do is for the players to reveal their hands.

That’s the scenario for Saturday night when the revitalized Warriors take on conference leader Utah State at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Hawaii, which is on a three-game winning streak, is 12-8 overall and 3-5 in the Western Athletic Conference. Utah State, which is on a 14-game winning streak, is 19-2 overall, 8-0 in the WAC, and ranked No. 25 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.

“I think everybody here is ready – the fans, the team,” said Hawaii sophomore forward Joston Thomas.

The Warriors have had a full week to prepare for the Aggies, and the UH athletic department has taken advantage of it by promoting the game as “All In Against The Aggies” in an effort to reach the arena’s capacity of 10,300.

“I’m very excited about this game,” Hawaii sophomore center Vander Joaquim said. “When we went to their house, the crowd was pretty big. I’m excited for them to come here and hopefully this place is going to be packed and it’s going to be hard for them to play here, too.”

The Warriors and Aggies previously met this season on Dec. 29, when Utah State prevailed, 74-66, before 7,000 raucous fans at Logan, Utah. Although Hawaii came up eight points short, it is the closest any WAC team has come to the Aggies this season.

“We played pretty good on offense,” Joaquim said. “But we didn’t do the job on defense. If we play better defense this time, we should be better.”

Hawaii shot a season-best 63.2 percent from the field against Utah State on Dec. 29, but got out-rebounded 32-13.

“We need to keep up with them on the boards, first and foremost,” Thomas said. “We have to stay strong to what we believe in, which is rebounding and playing hard. If we do that, nine times out of 10, we win.”

Utah State’s main player is 6-foot-7 forward Tai Wesley, who is averaging 14.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, and has a .608 field goal percentage. He had the best game of his career in the last victory over Hawaii with 27 points and 13 rebounds.

“He’s very strong, very smart, very good at getting the ball near the basket and either getting a good shot up or getting fouled,” said Hawaii associate coach Walter Roese, who scouted the Aggies. “We’re going to have to do a much better job on him this time.”

Utah State actually has a balanced attack, with guards Brian Green and Brockeith Pane contributing 11.3 and 10.9 points per game, respectively. Green ranks second in the WAC with 52 3-pointers.

Hawaii boasts the WAC’s top 3-point shooter in junior Zane Johnson, who has 55. Johnson and Bill Amis are both averaging 14.1 points per game for the Warriors.

Amis, a 6-9 senior forward, sat out the last meeting against Utah State due to a foot injury.

“We’re a lot different with Bill in there,” Joaquim said. “We can change some things.”

NOTES: Hawaii head coach Gib Arnold has been working all week on trying to convince UH-Manoa students to attend Saturday’s game. Arnold has visited students in the dorms and in the cafeteria, and even attended a few fraternity meetings to get as many of them to the game. He’s even talked with fellow coaches in the UH athletic department to try and get some of the athletes to attend. There was even talk that the UH football team may try to do something to help excite the crowd before tip-off.

UH-Manoa students can get in free with valid identification.

Arnold said he will coach the game in his rubber slippers if the students can fill the lower and upper sections behind the baskets. He said he’ll also wear board shorts if the game is declared an official sellout.

Tickets are still available for Saturday’s game against Utah State. Pre-game festivities will begin at 5 p.m. with the Bud Light Backcourt Tailgate, outside of the arena (near ticket office).

3 Comments

  1. As everyone knows Miah has had a tough loss in his family this week. So… When he goes into the game the UH Mens Basketball game tonight let’s all stand up and cheer our hearts out for the courage he is showing in such a tough time. Please!!! What a tribute it would be if everyone would get on their feet

  2. Hope the Warrior football team shows up in force, coaches,players of other UH sports, all students come out to Stan Sheriff tonight and make it a night and game to remember, GO WARRIORS!
    Miah=WARRIOR

  3. FREE for UH students…….Wow, can’t go wrong with that. Let’s hope the students show up in force. After all, the game is on campus. Okay UH students show your colors. Make a lot of noise tonite. Go Warriors!

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