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Warriors wary of winless-in-WAC Spartans

The Hawai’i basketball team is hoping the second round of Western Athletic Conference games starts off the same way the first round did. With a victory over San Jose State.

There’s just one difference in the scenario this time around. The game will be played at San Jose, Calif.

The Warriors will open the second round of WAC games at San Jose State on Saturday, Feb. 4. The game is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. (Hawai’i time) at the Event Center. The Warriors opened the WAC season on January 7 with an 82-69 home victory over San Jose State.

“I think you always have to change things up,” Hawai’i head coach Gib Arnold said. “You see what was successful and obviously try to go back to that. But I’m sure they’ve adapted and will adjust.”

Arnold is also aware that the Spartans are “much better” than their 0-7 WAC record this season. He noted that San Jose State had to play five of its first seven WAC games on the road.

“A lot of teams might be in that same position if you had to play five road games,” Arnold said.

The Spartans rank last in the WAC with a .391 team field goal percentage, but they have four viable scoring options. James Kinney, a 6-foot-2 junior guard, leads the team with 16.0 points per game and ranks among the WAC leaders with 60 3-pointers.

Sophomore guard Keith Shamburger is next at 13.7 points per game, but he has been battling a back injury recently and sat out San Jose State’s last game.

Led by Kinney, Shamburger and freshman D.J. Brown, the Spartans lead the WAC in 3-pointers made with an average of 8.1 per game. Brown has emerged in recent games, including a 33-point breakout game two weeks ago.

However, the Spartan that most concerns Arnold is 6-8, 235-pound forward Wil Carter. He is averaging 11.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, and had the best game of his career in Honolulu a month ago when he finished with 21 points and 20 rebounds in the loss at Hawai’i.

San Jose State head coach George Nessman said the Spartans need to improve defensively to start earning wins in the WAC. They rank last in the WAC in points allowed at 73.4 per game.

“I think there’s two really main components,” he said. “The first is we need to do a better job defensively. We’re an improving defensive team, but we’re not a consistently good defensive team. We’re giving up too many easy scores. The second piece is we have to be better under duress … we need to be more composed. We need to be harder-edged when that game is on the line.”

Arnold said the Warriors will use their same general plan of attack on offense – feed the ball inside to big men Vander Joaquim and Joston Thomas, and hope it frees up the perimeter for shooters Zane Johnson, Hauns Brereton and others.

Johnson leads the Warriors in scoring at 15.5 per game, and leads the WAC with 3.1 3-pointers per contest. Joaquim is averaging 14.2 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. He had 20 points and 14 rebounds in the previous win over San Jose State

Joston Thomas is averaging 13.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, and he scored a career-high 27 against San Jose State last month.

“We’re going to go inside first and then kick it out for open shots,” Arnold said. “Defensively, we’re going to try to take their top guys out of the game and make guys that normally don’t score beat us.”

HAWAII VS. SAN JOSE STATE

When: Saturday, February 4, 4 p.m. (Hawaii time)
Where: Event Center, San Jose, California
TV: None
Radio: Live on ESPN 1420 AM
Internet: No live streaming scheduled

(WarriorInsider.com file photo courtesy Brandon Flores)

1 Comment

  1. Never underestimate the enemy. You never know what they may have instore. As long as the team goes on the court focused to get the W, I feel they’ll be alright. They’ve been playing solid lately so let’s get it done, man.
    Go Warriors!

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