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Warriors want to rise above Spartans

Exactly one week ago, the Hawaii basketball team was at the bottom of the Western Athletic Conference and on a five-game losing streak.

What a difference one week makes.

The Warriors have won two in a row, and can create some separation from the bottom of the WAC with another victory against San Jose State on Saturday.

Hawaii will host the Spartans at the Stan Sheriff Center on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. in a game that has a lot of meaning in terms of WAC positioning.

The Warriors are 11-8 overall and in seventh place in the conference at 2-5. San Jose State is 9-8 overall and in eighth place at 1-5.

There is some intrigue in the matchup. The Spartans prefer an up-tempo pace, as they rank second in the WAC in scoring with 74.6 points per game. They also surrender the most points per game in the WAC at 73.5 points per game.

Hawaii, on the other hand, has been playing at a more deliberate pace of late. In its seven WAC games, Hawaii is averaging 59.4 points per game.

The biggest question for the Spartans right now is the status of star guard Adrian Oliver. The 6-foot-4 senior leads the WAC and is ranked third in the country in scoring with 24.2 points per game. He missed the last two games with a concussion, but is expected to return against Hawaii.

“We put him on the board, and we’re expecting him to start,” said Hawaii assistant coach Brandyn Akana, who scouted the Spartans. “Even if he’s not 100 percent, even if he doesn’t start, you still have to be ready for a guy like that.”

The Spartans have two other dangerous guards in Justin Graham and Keith Shamburger. Graham, a 6-4 senior, is averaging 15.5 points and 4.4 assists per game, and has had several strong showings against Hawaii since his freshman season.

Shamburger, a 5-11 freshman, is averaging 11.2 points per game. During the recruiting process, he narrowed his choices to Hawaii and San Jose State.

Zane Johnson continues to lead the balanced Hawaii offense with 14.4 points per game. He leads the WAC with 53 3-pointers.

A key for the Warriors could be post players Vander Joaquim, Bill Amis and Joston Thomas. That trio combined for 36 points and 27 rebounds in a victory over Fresno State on Thursday.

San Jose State likes to use 6-9 Matt Ballard and 6-8 Will Carter in the post, with its three guards (Graham, Oliver and Shamburger) on the perimeter.

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