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Warriors look to rebound against Bulldogs

If the Hawai’i basketball team wants to move up the Western Athletic Conference standings, it needs to move on.

The disappointing loss to Nevada is in the past, and a must-win game with Fresno State now looms. The Warriors will host the Bulldogs on Saturday at the Stan Sheriff Center. The game will start around 7:20 p.m., following a UH women’s basketball game.

Hawai’i is 13-10 overall and in fourth place in the WAC at 5-4. The Warriors need a win to stay in the upper half of the WAC standings. Fresno State is 11-15 overall and in seventh place in the conference at 3-7.

Hawai’i head coach Gib Arnold was emotional and visibly upset immediately after the 88-79 loss to Nevada, but by Friday afternoon, he said the focus was entirely on Fresno State.

“We went right to Fresno State and worked on their sets and worked on a defensive practice – what we need to do defensively to slow them down,” Arnold said.

The Warriors defeated the Bulldogs, 74-68 in overtime, a month ago in Fresno, Calif.

Junior center Vander Joaquim had one of his best games of the season on that night, finishing with 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting, and 16 rebounds.

“It was a fight,” he said of the last meeting with the Bulldogs. “We went over there and they didn’t give the win to us. We had to go there and take it. We’re expecting a battle (Saturday) night.”

The Bulldogs like to play at a deliberate pace, and they rank last in the WAC in scoring with 65.3 points per game (Hawaii is second at 74.7).

Hawai’i got out-rebounded 46-27 in the loss to Nevada, but the Warriors hope to remedy that against a Fresno State squad that basically has just two post players – 6-foot-8 Kevin Foster and 6-7 Jerry Brown. The other six players in the regular rotation are considered guards. Not surprisingly, the Bulldogs rank last in the WAC in rebounding with 30.8 per game.

Arnold, however, noted that the Bulldogs create problems with their perimeter quickness. “They just keep coming at you,” he said. “They run their stuff, they’re patient offensively. They’re trying to drive it, kick it and get open 3s and get to the rim. Smaller team, but very athletic … our guards are going to have huge roles on the defensive side.”

The Bulldogs are led by Kevin Olekaibe, a 6-2 sophomore who leads the WAC in scoring at 18.2 points per game. He also ranks among the top 10 nationally with 75 3-pointers.

Hawai’i senior guard Zane Johnson had a subpar shooting night against Nevada, but still leads the Warriors in scoring with 15.4 points per game and 68 3-pointers. Joaquim is averaging 14.3 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, and junior forward Joston Thomas is at 14.2 points and 6.0 rebounds per game.

The Warriors will be boosted – physically and emotionally – by the return of sophomore forward Trevor Wiseman. He was suspended “indefinitely” following a road victory at San Jose State last week, and reinstated on Friday.

Wiseman, who averaged 6.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, will play against Fresno State, according to Arnold.

The Warriors are also hoping to catch a weary Fresno State team that is 2-11 on the road, including 0-6 against WAC teams. The Bulldogs lost at San Jose State, 79-71 in double-overtime, on Thursday. They arrived in Honolulu on Friday afternoon, and opted not to practice.

HAWAI’I VS. FRESNO STATE

When: Saturday, February 11, approximately 7:20 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center, Honolulu
Tickets: $26 lower level, $18 upper level adults, $16 upper level senior citizens, $5 upper level students. Parking is $6.
TV: Live on OCSports (channel 12 or 1012)
Radio: Live on ESPN 1420 AM
Internet: Live video streaming available on ocsports.tv
Doubleheader discount: The UH women’s team will play San Jose State at 5 p.m. Upper level tickets (good for both games) are available for $10 adults, $8 senior citizens and $5 students, but must be purchased before halftime of women’s game.
Autographs: The UH men’s team will be signing autographs on the concourse level shortly after the game.

(WarriorInsider.com photos by Brandon Flores)

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