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Warriors’ Christmas wish: Diamond Head Classic title

The Hawai’i basketball team knows it will be playing a game on Christmas Day. The Warriors’ collective Christmas wish is to be playing – and eventually winning – in the championship game of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic on December 25.

But the three-day, eight-team tournament starts on Saturday, and it takes two wins in the first two days to reach the championship game on Christmas Day. The opening task for the Warriors is a big one. Literally.

Hawai’i will open the tournament against Miami (FL) at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Stan Sheriff Center. The tournament starts earlier in the day, with other opening-round games at 11 a.m. (Indiana State vs. Ole Miss), 1 p.m. (San Diego State vs. San Francisco) and 5:30 p.m. (Arizona vs. East Tennessee State).

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The Warriors are 5-3; the Hurricanes are 7-1. Hawai’i associate coach Benjy Taylor had the task of scouting the Hurricanes, and he described them as “huge and athletic, and playing really, really well right now.”

Miami will bring a six-game winning streak with them to Honolulu, including a 67-59 home victory over then-No. 13 ranked Michigan State. Miami’s only loss this season was a 63-51 road setback at Florida Gulf Coast.

“They’re awfully big on the inside and shoot the ball well,” Taylor said of the Hurricanes. “They’re a very experienced team with six seniors, three fifth-year seniors.”

All five Miami starters are averaging double-figure points, led by 6-foot-5 wing Durand Scott at 15.6 per game. He is also contributing 6.8 rebounds per game, and that ranks third on the team.

The Hurricanes’ strength is in the middle, where they start a pair of towers – 6-10, 292-pound center Reggie Johnson and 6-11, 242-pound forward Kenny Kadji. Johnson is averaging 12.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, and Kadji is contributing 11.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.

It should create an intriguing in the post, as the Warriors will likely start a trio of bigs – 6-10 center Vander Joaquim, 6-8 forward Christian Standhardinger, and 6-8 forward Isaac Fotu. Standhardinger leads Hawaii with 17.0 points and 8.0 points per game, followed closely by Joaquim at 13.9 points and 7.3 rebounds; Fotu is contributing 9.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.

Among the Hawai’i guards, Brandon Spearman is averaging 12.5 points, Hauns Brereton is contributing 11.0 points and 6.4 rebounds, and Jace Tavita is dishing out 6.3 assists per game.

“We’re a points-in-the-paint team, they’re a points-in-the-paint team,” Taylor said. “We’re looking forward to it.”

The only “small” player for the Hurricanes is 5-11 point guard Shane Larkin, and he may play the biggest role on the team. He leads the team in minutes (35.4) and is averaging 14.8 points and 4.1 assists per game, while shooting 55 percent from the field and 52 percent from 3-point range.

“Their guards are really good, and they’ve got a couple of big inside,” said Hawai’i guard Garrett Jefferson. “We’re going to have to play really good defense and grab every rebound.”

The Hurricanes are allowing just 59.8 points per game, while limiting opponents to a .379 field goal percentage. The Warriors are allowing 69.4 points per game and limiting opponents to a .389 field goal percentage.

“They’re a good shot-blocking team and they’re physical,” Taylor said. “We feel like we’re the same way.”

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Game Information: Hawai’i vs. Miami
When: Saturday, Dec. 22, 7:30 p.m. HT
Where: Stan Sheriff Center (10,300) – Honolulu, HI
Television: Live on ESPNU.
Streaming Video: Live video streaming is available on WatchESPN.com.
Radio: ESPN 1420 AM will carry the game live. Neighbor islands can listen live on KNUI on Maui, KHLO in Hilo, KKON in Kona, and KTOH on Kaua’i.
Audio Webcast: Live audio streaming on espn1420am.com
Live Stats: Live in-game stats are available at HawaiiAthletics.com
Ticket Information: $26 (lower) and $18 (upper) for evening session. $10 (general admission) for day session. All session ticket packages for $90 (lower) and $70 (upper).
Promotions: One free admission to the daytime sessions on December 22 or December 23, for each new, unwrapped toy donated to Toys for Tots Hawaii as you enter the Stan Sheriff Center. Offer is valid as long as tickets are available for sale. Military Discount (Must show military ID and limit four [4] per ID); Upper Level (Reserved Sessions 2, 4 ,5, 6) – $9; General Admission. UH Alumni Discount (Must show UHAA ID) – $5 off Upper Level (Reserved) or General Admission session.

14 Comments

  1. ‘Das Da Spirit, Warriors!

    Going In… AIM High…..
    All the Visitors, The Path to the Championship
    Runs through you and Our Home Court…

    Play Even Beyond Our Imaginations….
    PULL the Fans with You
    Rock Da ‘Rena!

    Aussie Mum Landed!?
    Hope you had a Safe, Uneventful Trip!
    Aloha, Welcome!
    Will be Lookin’ for Aussie Mum, Tonganator & Ohana !

    Mele Kalikimaka ‘Bows!
    Hope You Get Everything You Want!

  2. Just been spear fishing, awesome. Can’t wait to be at the game tomorrow night, looking forward to meet Aussie mum and other players Ohana who are in town..

    Go the Warriors!!

  3. I arrived today, met up with Michael, walked around Waikiki plus got a couple of naps in!!!!

    Can’t wait to see the game tomorrow night – Would you believe that I met some of the other players tonight in Waikiki – Arizona, Memphis(?)

    Tonangator – don’t think I will be doing any spear fishing!!! But would like to surf at Waikiki.

    Go Warriors

  4. (?) make that Ole Miss

  5. Aussie Mum,

    In behalf of the WI nation, welcome and a big ALOHA to you for arriving safely in Hawaii.!! Without question Michael has a great mum and huge fan of UH Warrior MBB!

    Have a great stay…hope you will join up with Tonganator’s ohana and cheer on the MBB team to victories..it will be probably, the best Holiday Hoops tourney in the nation..and you all will be on ESPN networks..!!

    Once again, you will probably see some of the other players parents, who could come over too. That is the cool thing about playing in Hawaii, especially since we have Michael from Australia and Isaac from New Zealand, with Davis, Ozi and Christian from Europe side of the earth, and Roop from Canada and lineage from India, and Vander from Angola, I believe Gib and staff have recruited the entire planet..now Warriors are truly a global team. Very unique!

    Enjoy the games, and your stay, North shore and east shore surf pretty big, south shore smaller , and..just so happens, a former Punahou and Hawaii resident , the President of the USA will be in town for Vacation in Kailua, so a lot happening!!

    Aloha, and so happy you made it!!

  6. for all the fans in the forum
    guys and their families
    coaches and all staff UH

    All I want for Christmas to you

    Be healthy, have a lot of fun
    Let all your wishes come true
    And of course to win the tournament

    Merry Christmas and happy New year

  7. Aussie Mum I want you to enjoy with your son

    Enjoy the game and enjoy yourself in paradise

  8. Aussie mum, glad you arrived safely in Paradise. You know, I can’t help but to think of the old TV programme when you arrived at the airport”Fantasy Island, The Plane, The Plane..” lol, shows my age now. I guess the dream is for the team to do well and win the tournament!!!

    Ozi mum, have a great Christmas

    Off to the water park with the kids, then ready for the GAME!!!!

    GO THE WARRIORS

  9. let’s see if deshawn stephens has a good game

  10. forgot dwayne polee jr. too

  11. who is deshawn stephens?

  12. he came here for a official visit in i think gibs first class

  13. oh, ok. you’re not thinking of deshawn mitchell, are you?

  14. hawaiifan09: you’re right. he visited on the same trip with ronnie stevens.

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