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Warriors looking to tie New Mexico State in WAC standings

El Paso, Texas, is not exactly Honolulu, but the Hawai’i basketball team is doing its best to make it feel like home.

The Warriors have set up a “mini-training camp” in El Paso this week in preparation for their game at New Mexico State on Thursday in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

El Paso is about a one-hour drive away from the New Mexico State campus, so the Warriors will bus to the game on Thursday afternoon. The Western Athletic Conference game is scheduled to start at 4:05 p.m. (Hawai’i time) at the Pan American Center.

“I’d rather be at home, don’t get me wrong,” Hawai’i head coach Gib Arnold said. “But under the circumstances, this is as good as it can get. We’ve gotten a lot done here, it really is like a mini-training camp. Just having this kind of access to facilities is exactly what we needed to make us feel comfortable.”

Texas-El Paso head coach Tim Floyd is a mentor and close friend of Arnold’s, so he allowed the Warriors to use the UTEP facilities this week.

“Even something like laundry – that’s something you might have to worry about on a long road trip like this, but (UTEP) let us do our laundry at their place,” Arnold said.

New Mexico State is not expected to be as hospitable on Thursday, when second place in the WAC will be on the line.

The Aggies are 20-8 overall and in second place in the WAC at 7-3. The Warriors are 15-11 overall and in fourth place at 6-4. A win by Hawai’i would forge a three-way tie for second place (Idaho, which does not play on Thursday, is 7-4).

The Warriors defeated the Aggies, 91-87, in Honolulu on January 21.

“We had some things that worked in that game and some things that didn’t,” Arnold said. “We’ll have to be at our best, because that’s a good team and a very tough place to play.”

The Aggies are led by Wendell McKines, who is making his case for WAC Player of the Year. The 6-foot-6 senior leads the conference in both scoring (18.3 points per game) and rebounding (10.4). He was “limited” to 14 points and nine rebounds in the loss at Hawai’i, as the Warriors used a variety of defenses against him.

Point guard Hernst Laroche is contributing 12.1 points and 3.6 assists per game, and center Hamidu Rahman is averaging 10.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game for the Aggies. Bandja Sy had 17 points and 10 rebounds off the bench for the Aggies in the loss at Hawaii.

The Warriors led by as many as 19 points in the second half of the win over New Mexico State before the Aggies made it close in the final minutes with a full-court press.

“It was kind of a desperation press on their part, but because they had some success with it, we may see it again and we’ve worked on it,” Arnold said.

Vander Joaquim leads the Warriors in both scoring (14.9) and rebounding (9.9). He was battling flu-like symptoms earlier this week, but is expected to be ready for Thursday’s game.

Senior guard Zane Johnson scored a season-high 29 points in the win over New Mexico State, and is averaging 14.4 points per game. Junior forward Joston Thomas is contributing 14.0 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.

Sophomore forward Davis Rozitis played a key role off the bench in the win over the Aggies with nine points and five rebounds. He has also been feeling ill on the trip.

“New Mexico State is big, real big, and Davis was our MVP the last time we played them,” Arnold said. “We’ll need our bigs to have a good game again — control the boards.”

The Aggies (77.5) and Warriors (74.6) are the top two scoring teams in the WAC. They are also the top rebounding teams, with New Mexico State at 39.6, and Hawai’i at 38.2.

Thursday will be the second of three games during a 10-day road trip for the Warriors. Hawai’i lost a non-conference game at Montana (94-79) last Saturday, and will play another WAC game at Louisiana Tech on Saturday.

HAWAI’I AT NEW MEXICO STATE
When:
Thursday, February 23, 4 p.m. (Hawai’i time)
Where: Pan American Center, Las Cruces, N.M.
TV: Live on OCSports (channel 12 or 1012)
Radio: Live on ESPN 1420 AM
Internet: Live video streaming available on www.espn3.com

(WarriorInsider.com file photos courtesy Brandon Flores)

5 Comments

  1. Can’t wait, baby!

  2. Mahalo to Coach Tim Floyd @ UTEP: Good, Well-Earned Friendships & Alliances are often “The Edge” that can make a World of Difference in Outcomes & Results. I can also foresee a good-to-great athlete who has no interest in playing @ UTEP being advised that his ‘other Best Option’ would be to play in Hawai’i…;-}

    Here’s to hopin’ that the saved back and forth day and a half of travel time and cost, wear & tear, acclimation and effort, that was instead invested into more work and practice time, all add up to better and winning performances @ NMSU tonight and @ LA Tech on Saturday …

    This is SO MUCH smarter than keeping the whole (football) team holed up in a Vegas Casino)…

    Ex-USC Coach Tim Floyd was exonerated by the NCAA after USC let him go (even better than Ex-UH Coach Rick Pitino who also stoutly maintains that he was not part of any wrong-doing @ UH) …

  3. + +

    AND All That did NOT Stop Coach Rick Pitino from becoming the NUMBER ONE [No Ka Oi, IF he had learned to embrace his Hawai’i Time] Top Paid Coach @ ~$5.4 Million …

    His Book is also a Good Read …

  4. Not to put anymore pressure on Zane, but in order for UH to have a chance tonite, he has to score in double digits. If he can’t hit the 3’s it makes it hard for the big guys to score in the paint. Don’t press it Zane, just square up and let it fly.
    Go Warriors!

  5. What is wrong with the team?? They haven’t been the same since the Wiseman incident.

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