Warriors aiming for sweep of UC Riverside
The Hawai’i basketball team now knows what it takes to win on the road. The Warriors will need to do it again on Thursday at UC Riverside if they want to make a run toward the top of the Big West Conference.
Hawai’i will open the second round of games in the Big West regular season with a road contest at UC Riverside. The game is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. (Hawaii time) at the SRC Arena in Riverside, Calif.
The Warriors are 11-9 overall and in a three-way tie for third place in the Big West at 5-4. The Highlanders are 5-15 overall and in ninth place in the conference at 2-6.
Hawai’i’s largest margin of victory in the first round of Big West games was a 76-61 win over UC Riverside on January 5 at the Stan Sheriff Center.
“We handled them fairly easily the first time they came in here, but they’ve improved a lot,” Hawai’i assistant coach Scott Fisher said.
Since its loss at Hawai’i, UC Riverside is 1-4, but the four losses have been by an average of 5.8 points. Included in that stretch is a 91-82 loss in overtime to first-place Long Beach State.
The Warriors and Highlanders are similar in that both teams like to get the ball into the post.
Riverside’s top player is Chris Patton, a 6-foot-10 junior center who is averaging 12.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. In Big West play, he is averaging 15.4 points with a .675 field goal percentage. The Warriors held Patton to eight points on 3-of-8 shooting in the game at Honolulu.
Riverside’s other top scoring threats are forwards Chris Harriel and Josh Fox. Harriel, a 6-4 junior, is averaging 10.8 points per game and leads the team with 28 3-pointers; Fox, a 6-6 freshman, is averaging 10.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.
“They’re a very efficient team,” Fisher noted. “They’re patient, they’re methodical offensively. Defensively, they really do a good job of keeping the ball out of the paint. It’s going to be a challenge.”
The Warriors have an even bigger – and more productive – frontline. Forward Christian Standhardinger leads the team in scoring with 15.5 points per game and is second in rebounding at 7.7. The 6-8 junior is coming off his career best game – 31 points and 16 rebounds in a breakthrough road win at UC Santa Barbara last Saturday.
Vander Joaquim, a 6-10 senior center, is averaging 14.0 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. He had 11 points and 11 rebounds in the previous win over Riverside.
Isaac Fotu, a 6-8 freshman forward, is contributing 10.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, and leads the Big West with a .625 field goal percentage.
The difference in the first meeting was Hawai’i’s outside shooting. In particular, freshman Brandon Jawato scored 21 points on 7-for-7 shooting from 3-point range.
“We can’t second-guess our shots,” Fisher said. “When we get our shots, we gotta take them, whether it be a 3 or a 2 or anywhere else. But we’ve got to make sure we run our offense with a bit more precision, certainly on the road.”
It would also help if the Warriors can keep the Highlanders below their current averages. Riverside ranks last in the Big West in scoring (60.9 per game), field goal percentage (.425), 3-pointers (4.7 per game), 3-point percentage (.283) and free throw percentage (.575).
Riverside’s free-throw percentage ranks 343rd out of 345 NCAA Division I teams.
A big difference from the first meeting between the teams in Honolulu will be the atmosphere. When the Warriors beat the Highlanders four weeks ago, the attendance in the Sheriff Center was 6,214. Riverside is averaging just 627 fans per home game, and has drawn a combined total of 5,018 fans to its eight home games this season.
“I don’t think it makes a difference,” Fisher said. “We practice in front of 10 to 15 fans every day in Gym 2 … a game’s a game.”
GAME INFORMATION: Hawai’i (11-9, 5-4 Big West) at UC Riverside (5-15, 2-6 Big West)
When: Thursday, Jan. 31, 5:00 p.m. (Hawai’i time)
Where: SRC Arena (2,750) – Riverside, Calif.
Streaming Video: Available on BigWest.tv
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: Available on espn1420am.com
Live Stats: Live in-game stats are available at gohighlanders.com