Warriors face Anteaters in first Big West road game
The Hawai’i basketball team passed the first portion of its Big West Conference test, and the Warriors have a 3-0 record to show for it. Now the questions get a little tougher.
The Warriors will play their first Big West road games ever this week. It starts at UC Irvine on Wednesday, followed by a game at Long Beach State on Saturday.
“Obviously it’s a tough road trip,” Hawai’i head coach Gib Arnold said. “You look at those two teams and both of them are ahead of us in all the preseason polls – Irvine being a team with all their starters back and Long Beach being picked first in every poll.”
But what matters is now, and the Warriors are currently the team atop the standings. Hawai’i is 9-5 overall and 3-0 in Big West games. UC Irvine is 7-9 and 1-2.
Wednesday’s game will take place at the Bren Events Center in Irvine, and it will be televised nationally on ESPNU, starting at 6 p.m. (Hawai’i time).
The Warriors departed Honolulu on Monday afternoon, and will stay in Garden Grove, California, for the duration of the trip.
“It’s to be determined how much different it is, but by the looks of it, (we take) one flight, one hotel, two games – I think it will definitely help our legs,” Arnold said.
The Anteaters are 4-1 at home, with the only loss to LSU. They are coming off two close road losses last week – 74-71 at UC Santa Barbara, and 72-67 at Cal Poly.
Irvine relies on a balanced attack, with six different players averaging between 6.4 and 13.6 points per game. Like Hawai’i, the Anteaters have used several different starting lineups this season.
Daman Starring, a 6-foot-3 senior guard, leads the team with 13.6 points per game and 31 3-pointers. He is shooting 47 percent (31 of 66) from 3-point range, and also contributes 4.5 rebounds per game.
Adam Folker, a 6-9 senior forward, is averaging 9.1 points and a team-high 6.4 rebounds per game, and is the only Irvine player to start every game this season. He does have a glaring weakness – 27.9 percent free throw shooting (12 of 43).
Michael Wilder, a 6-2 senior, was a preseason All-Big West Conference selection, and is considered the team’s top all-around player. He is averaging 8.0 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.
The Anteaters normally start three guards, but they do have post players with size. In addition to the 6-9 Folker, 6-8 Will Davis II is averaging 6.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, and ranks second in the Big West with 30 blocked shots. 7-footer Conor Clifford and 6-10 John Ryan also get playing time off the bench.
The Warriors, of course, rely on their inside strength. The starting frontcourt of 6-10 Vander Joaquim (14.4 points, 8.8 rebounds), 6-8 Christian Standhardinger (15.7 and 7.6) and 6-8 Isaac Fotu (11.3 and 7.4) are the top three scorers and rebounders for Hawai’i. Junior guard Brandon Spearman is next in scoring with 10.4 points per game.
“We play a game that win on the road – we pound it and we do a good job on the boards,” Arnold said. “We just have to make sure we keep the turnovers down.”
The Warriors are also hoping that freshman guard Brandon Jawato continues his hot shooting. He has made his last nine 3-point shots, including a 7-for-7 performance last week against UC Riverside that earned him Big West Conference Player of the Week.
In three Big West games, Jawato is averaging 14.7 points per game, and is 12 for 15 (80 percent) from 3-point range.
GAME INFORMATION: Hawai’i at UC Irvine
When: Wednesday, Jan. 9, 6:00 p.m. (Hawai’i time)
Where: Bren Events Center (5,000) – Irvine, Calif.
Television: Live on ESPNU.
Streaming Video: None.
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