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Warriors are prepared for ‘different’ Highlanders

About 10 days ago, this game almost could have been considered a gimme for the University of Hawaii basketball team. A lot has changed since then, and the Warriors are certainly not taking Saturday’s Big West Conference game against UC Riverside for granted.

“I think we have to bring our A game to win against those guys,” senior forward Christian Standhardinger said. “We’re coming from two rough away games, so we have to rebound back and bounce back and I think we’re ready for that challenge.”

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Hawai’i is 11-5 overall and 0-2 in the Big West following two road losses last week. Riverside is 6-11 overall and 1-2 in the conference. The Highlanders rallied from a 19-point deficit in the second half to beat UC Davis, 81-69, on Thursday night at Davis, Calif.

(Christian Standhardinger pictured, courtesy Chase Simmons)

“They’re coming off their best win of the season,” UH assistant coach Scott Fisher said. “They’re coming in here playing their best basketball, so we have to be ready.”

The Highlanders were the last-place team in the Big West last season, but under new head coach Dennis Cutts, they have already matched their total number of wins from last season when they finished 6-25.

“This is a different looking team from what we’ve seen in the past,” Fisher said of the Highlanders.

Riverside was considered a deliberate half-court team last season, but it has picked up the pace a bit this season. The Highlanders have been doing it with a variety of looks, as 10 different players have started games for them this season.

Their top player is Taylor Johns, a 6-foot-7 sophomore forward who is averaging team-highs of 13.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. He is followed closely by Chris Patton, a 6-10, 245-pound senior center who is averaging 12.7 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.

“They run most of their plays to get a post-up from their bigs,” Fisher said. “They’re not like a lot of teams where they’re running plays to get a shooter coming off for a 3. They’re looking to get the ball inside to their big guys.”

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Johns and Patton will likely be matched up against Hawaii’s pair of forwards – Standhardinger and sophomore Isaac Fotu. Standhardinger leads the Warriors in both scoring (17.6) and rebounding (7.4). Fotu is contributing 13.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.

“I like that actually – I like playing against slower guys,” Standhardinger said. “It’s easier for me to go to the basket. I think we just have to focus on rebounding. That’s the strength of their big guys, rebounding. If we focus on rebounding and controlling the boards, then I think we have a very good chance.”

Riverside’s guards to watch at Sam Finley and Nick Gruninger. Finley, a 6-2 freshman, is averaging 15.0 points per game in three Big West games. Gruninger, a 5-10 junior, is averaging 7.7 points and a team-high 3.0 assists per game.

Although the Highlanders have the momentum from their road rally over UC Davis, they also have to deal with a quick turnaround. They arrived in Honolulu on Friday afternoon, thus giving them approximately 30 hours to prepare for the Warriors.

(Isaac Fotu pictured, courtesy Warren Haraki)

“I think we have to use our home court to our advantage,” Fisher said. “Keep the pressure on them and wear them out – wear those big guys out a little bit. Get them running up and down the court, I think that will be to our advantage, and I think that will get us a win.”

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Game 17 Tipoff Notes
Who:
Hawai’i (11-5, 2-0 Big West) vs. UC Riverside (6-11, 1-2 Big West)
When: Saturday, Jan. 18, 7:00 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center (10,300) – Honolulu
Television: Live on OCSports – Channels 16 (SD) and 1016 (HD).
Streaming Video: BigWest.tv
Radio: Live on ESPN 1420. 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); $18 (upper-adult); $16 (upper-sr. citizen); $5 (upper-youth, ages 4-HS); UH Manoa students free with validated ID. Parking $6.
Promotions: Hawaii Pacific Health is the game sponsor and will distribute 3,000 eco tote bags and award great prizes throughout the contest. There will be an autograph session with the men’s basketball team in the arena concourse near Gate B following the game. UH Alumni Association paid members and military members receive 50% adult tickets (maximum of eight) when presenting UHAA or military ID at the Stan Sheriff Center box office. Tickets are in special sections and supplies are limited. Other restrictions may apply. UH Kids’ Club members are invited onto the court for the pre-game ceremonies.

3 Comments

  1. Play tough D, aggressive & smart offense throughout the game and get your first BWC win!

  2. Good luck tonight! Really enjoyed the comments this week, all. 🙂

  3. “A” game has been brought tonight… UH blowing out Riverside, with reserves in to finish the game

    Just need to keep this intensity on the road.

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