Warriors want to keep climbing
First place in the Western Athletic Conference is still a long way up for the Hawaii basketball team, but that doesn’t mean the Warriors can’t continue to climb.
“We’re coming back,” leading scorer Zane Johnson said. “We had a tough streak there, but I think it made us stronger. I think it made us better – more mentally tough than anything – and we’re ready to play.”
Hawaii will host Fresno State in a WAC game on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. at the Stan Sheriff Center. The Warriors are 10-8 overall and tied for seventh/eighth place in the conference at 1-5. The Bulldogs are 7-9 overall and in fifth place at 3-3.
“We know that they’re a pretty good team” senior point guard Hiram Thompson said. “This is a big game for us, so we’ve been preparing hard and just getting back to our principles. We feel like if we come and play our game, we should get a W.”
The Bulldogs were the surprise team of the first week of WAC play, starting 3-0. But they have since lost three in a row, and averaged just 54.7 points per game in those three losses.
As a result, Fresno State ranks last in the WAC in offense with 64.6 points per game. Hawaii is right above that with 66.6 points per game.
The Bulldogs are also at the bottom of the WAC in several other categories, including 3-point percentage (.277) and free throw percentage (.589, which is one of the worst in the country).
What’s more, Fresno State does not have any players averaging more than 11 points per game. Kevin Olekaibe, a 6-foot-1 freshman guard, leads the team with 10.9 points per game, and 6-10 sophomore center Greg Smith is next at 10.6.
“They’re doing it by team, even though they have some great players,” said Hawaii associate coach Walter Roese, who scouted the Bulldogs. “They play as a team and we need to be alert because any given night any of their players can go off and have 20.”
Hawaii has four players averaging double-figure points: Zane Johnson (14.7), Bill Amis (13.8), Hiram Thompson (10.9) and Joston Thomas (10.7).
Sophomore center Vander Joaquim is averaging 7.6 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, with Amis grabbing 6.4 rebounds per game and Thomas at 5.4. Joaquim will likely have to take on Fresno State’s Smith in a low-post battle.
It is the first of three consecutive home games for the Warriors. They will also host San Jose State on Saturday, then Utah State on Jan. 29.