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Warriors looking to start win streak in Las Vegas

The good thing about “going Vegas” is everybody starts off thinking they can win.

The Hawai’i basketball team is no different. Although stacked against unfavorable odds, the Warriors remain confident entering the Western Athletic Conference Tournament at Las Vegas.

Hawai’i will face Idaho in a quarterfinal game on Thursday at 10 a.m. (Hawai’i time) at the Orleans Arena. The Warriors are 15-15 overall and the No. 6 seed for the tournament with a 6-8 WAC record. The Vandals are 18-12 overall and the No. 3 seed with a 9-5 WAC record.

“Every team is zip-zip now — it’s a new season,” freshman guard Shaquille Stokes said.

Indeed, the champion of the WAC Tournament must win three games in three days, but the reward is priceless – a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Hawai’i and Idaho split the home-and-home series during the regular season, and interestingly enough, each team won on the other’s home court. The Warriors won at Idaho, 76-70, on January 28; the Vandals won at Hawai’i, 82-63, just last week.

The Warriors ended the regular season with a five-game losing streak, so they are looking at this as a fresh start.

“It’s a whole ‘nother type of excitement right now – it’s the post-season,” junior forward Joston Thomas said. “You lose now, you’re done until next November, or next October when you start practicing. Right now, it’s a love of the game and the heart, and that’s what we got.”

They will have to do it without senior guard Zane Johnson, who could not travel with the team due to illness. Johnson is averaging 14.0 points per game, and leads the team with 82 3-pointers. He averaged 17.0 points per game in the two contests against Idaho, and set the UH career record for 3s (he now has 180) in the loss last week.

“I’m expecting them to come out aggressive,” Stokes said of Idaho. “Since Zane’s not here, they’re going to think that we’re going to slack off. But we’re going to come to play.”

Stokes will be one of the players counted on to help fill the void. He currently ranks second on the team with 30 3-pointers.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I’m going to be ready to play. There’s going to be no pressure on nobody.”

Junior forward Hauns Brereton has 29 3s this season and also will be looked at to pick up some of Johnson’s missing points.

“I’m ready,” he said. “It’s another game. It’s a big game, it’s the tournament. But we’re ready. We’ve been practicing all year.”

The Warriors will also need junior center Vander Joaquim to prove his worth as a first-team All-WAC selection. He leads the team in scoring (14.0) and rebounding (9.5), but averaged just 3.0 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in Hawai’i’s last two games, and fouled out of both.

In the road win at Idaho, Joaquim tallied 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting, and grabbed nine rebounds. In the home loss to Idaho, he finished with four points on 1-of-7 shooting, and grabbed nine rebounds.

“We just need to keep playing the type of basketball we know how to play,” said Thomas, who is averaging 14.0 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. “We got away from it a little bit and we began to fail a little. But the only way from the bottom is the top and that’s where we’re going.”

The Warriors arrived in Las Vegas on Tuesday morning, and had two days to get acclimated and prepare for the Vandals. On Wednesday, they practiced at Del Sol High School, and started the workout at noon to simulate the game time. School was in session, and some of the members of the Del Sol basketball team spent their lunch break watching the Warriors.

“I’m actually more excited because it’s the middle of the day,” Brereton said. “We have more energy in the middle of the day then the end of the day.”

The Vandals shot 51 percent from the field in the win at Hawai’i last week, and they lead the WAC in team field goal percentage at .479. Senior guard Deremy Geiger led the way with 20 points, including four 3s. He leads Idaho in scoring with 13.0 points per game. Center Kyle Barone is averaging 12.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, and forward Stephen Madison is contributing 11.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.

HAWAI’I VS. IDAHO
Where:
Orleans Arena, Las Vegas
When: Thursday, March 8, 10 a.m. (Hawaii time)
TV: None
Radio: Live on ESPN 1420 AM
Internet: Live video streaming available ($7.95 pay per view) at www.WAC.tv

(WarriorInsider.com file photos courtesy Brandon Flores)

5 Comments

  1. Good to know that it will be streaming on the internet. I also like the positive attitudes. Hopefully, someone will emerge as a leader. Let’s go Warriors!

  2. DC, NY, and Memphis bring it! You Know the game!

  3. NY and Memphis definitely brought it this game. great game!!

  4. Game On! Congratulations!

  5. Against All Kinds of Adversity, including a Pretty Good Idaho Team that looked like a Big Step Up just Last Week on Our Home Court …

    Great Attitude AND WIN, Team & Coaches … Way to Hang In there Good Fans …

    Maybe Tomorrow, and Almost Definitely Next Year …(OR IT “Might Have to be The Next?) … Wins Like Today Portend of Better Days Ahead …

    Playing Tough … Learned Something …

    Way Closer to the Kind of Play it Takes to Be Winners ….

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