Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Warriors prepared for tough test to open conference

The University of Hawai’i basketball team would like to end this Big West Conference season the way Cal Poly did last year’s – with the tournament championship.

Perhaps it is fitting that the Warriors will begin the 2015 Big West regular season by hosting the Mustangs on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at the Stan Sheriff Center.


“They’re not going to surprise us because we have a tough game with them every year,” Hawai’i head coach Benjy Taylor said.

Hawai’i, which has been the surprise team of the pre-conference season, is 12-4. Cal Poly, which was the surprise team of last season’s Big West Tournament – winning it as the No. 7 seed – is 7-5.

The Mustangs enter the game having won four of their last five games, and the only loss during that span was against then-No. 8 ranked Gonzaga. The Warriors enter the game having won five of their last six games, and the only loss during that span was against then-No. 11 ranked Wichita State.

“It’s always good to start with the team that won it last year,” UH sophomore forward Aaron Valdes said. “Playing Cal Poly first is going to help us a lot, especially because they have a lot of guys returning, too. It’ll be a good experience for us. We’ll be ready, though.”

The game will feature an intriguing clash of styles. Hawai’i leads the Big West in scoring at 74.0 points per game; Cal Poly is last in the Big West in scoring at 63.1, but leads the conference in scoring defense by allowing just 60.7.

The Mustangs are also the most careful team in the nation, as they lead the NCAA in fewest turnovers per game at 8.4. The Warriors, however, lead the Big West in steals at 9.0 per game, and they force opponents into a league-high 16.6 turnovers per game.

“For the most part, the similarities are that their front line is very athletic, and our whole team is very athletic,” Taylor said. “They’re a little more up and down than you think. They’ll try to score against your pressure and they’ll take off and dunk it on you. They’re a good basketball team … they’re not just a half-court execution team.”

Valdes added: “We just have to get them playing our game instead of us playing their game. It’ll be good to see who pulls it out.”

Both teams have balanced scoring. The Mustangs are led by David Nwaba, a 6-foot-4 junior wing who is averaging 14.7 points per game, and has scored in double-figures in all 11 games he has played in this season. He averaged 14.5 points and 5.0 rebounds per game in two games against Hawai’i last season.


Brian Bennett, a 6-9 junior forward, is averaging 11.5 points and 6.0 rebounds, and is shooting 55 percent from the field. Maliik Love, a 6-2 senior point guard, controls the tempo for the Cal Poly offense, and is averaging 4.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game.

Reese Morgan, a 6-2 junior guard, is averaging 9.9 points per game as the first guard off the bench, and Cal Poly head coach Joe Callero has been using a steady rotation of 10 players in most games.

The Warriors are led by Valdes, who leads the team in scoring (14.9), rebounding (6.2) and field goal percentage (.509). Second-leading scorer and senior captain Garrett Nevels is coming off hand surgery a week ago, and his playing status is doubtful.

If Nevels is unable to go, freshman Isaac Fleming will likely get the start at guard. He is averaging 9.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, primarily as the team’s first guard off the bench.

UH point guard Roderick Bobbitt is averaging 9.2 points, 5.8 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 2.6 steals per game. Like Love for Cal Poly, Bobbitt sets the tone on both ends of the court for the Warriors.

The Mustangs usually start the 6-9 Bennett and 6-7 Joel Awich in the post, and they don’t get much bigger after that. The Warriors have been rotating four players for the two post spots – 6-7 Mike Thomas (8.6 points, 4.0 rebounds), 6-7 Negus Webster-Chan (9.1 points, 4.8 rebounds), 6-11 Stefan Jankovic (7.2 points, 4.0 rebounds) and 6-11 Stefan Jovanovic (5.3 points, 3.9 rebounds).

“They play smart basketball – they don’t turn the ball over much,” Valdes said. “The way we play defense, we’re going to try to turn them over, so it’s going to be a good match up.”

Game Information
Hawai’i (12-4, 0-0 Big West) vs. Cal Poly (7-5, 0-0 Big West)
When: Wednesday, Jan. 7, 7:00 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center (10,300) – Honolulu, O’ahu
Television: Live on OCSports – Channels 16 (SD) and 1016 (HD).
Streaming Video: BigWest.tv
Radio: Live on ESPN 1420 AM. 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


  1. Road games are one thing. But we should be able to win every home game barring more injuries. I’m sure they’ve scouted us well. Hope Benji got a few tricks up his sleeve to throw them off a bit. Hawaii is nowhere close to reaching their potential. They got lots of room to improve, which is a good thing. Because you wanna peak at tournament time.

  2. servante

    …..you know.. the departure of key persons to this MBB program, forced the team with Benjy and new staff at the helm to come together as a Team..Without Fotu, who was projected as one of the best forwards in the nation and still picked to finish 6th or 7th in the league.. really strange..Then departure, finally, of Sammis Reyes, which ended up being best for all, as Benjy says, whomever Wants to be here, and part of a growing MBB program, …Probably you servante , Eagle and myself, maybe a few more, were solid that team, might galvanize and get better and be competitive even without Fotu and Reyes. sure enough , team has surpassed even our zealous expectations.. what they have done pre BWC season.. well speaks for itself with the recognition around nation and Finally, the local media, who were dumping big time on program, are coming around.

    BWC, a whole different animal, level of play.. Hey , UH gets Two Huge wins this week, be 2-0 before heading off for 1 game road swing, then back for two more at SSC…it gives guys chance to heal, get better still, and momentum to finish well in first half of season… Can UH win on the road in BWC… well last year’s team went 4-0 in one stretch.. this team , away from SSC, Chaminade at Blaisdell, Pitt on Maui, 3 games in Florida , and one away game in Salt Lake City against BYU, shorthanded without NWC..and still competed for 32 minutes with the cougars,,UH you know, if they did not tire out, and rush things, they could have beat BYU on the road.. UH can go 4-4, and they will try to go 8-0 at home, 12-4, overall you are talking about possible regular season and NIT auto invite championship..

    However, been down this road before, and servante… this team keeps on surprising we old timer MBB fans.. incredible.. sometimes, I don’t know how they do it.. Every reason team, should have quit, folded, assistant coaches left, and Riley of all people, poor guy, he had stroke, imagine if Ben Jay hired Riley as interim coach.. wow.. Now.. 0-0… Go Bows.. This team simply amazes.

    And thing is servante , Benjy is right, team is coachable, Benjy has them disciplined, yet having fun, they are close, on and off the court.. learning not to pout..by March , key time of year.. this team’s best basketball still ahead.. they , staying healthy.. all 12 guys.. could make serious run to NCAA dance..
    HOWEVER ONE GAME, starting with Poly, at at Time..

    servante , warriorhaw, eagle, Chuck, Tavs, jjay, palolo, BigIsland fan, clyde, Backbeat, Valerie Schmidt and Ohana, get ready HERE come the Rainbow Warriors. still have to prove naysayers.. and there are a lot still out there. wrong.. UH can have winning record in BWC, and challenge for championships..

    I was chastised by a former post contributor for mentioning the nc..a.. word and that thing, however.. ? I don’t know.. we shall see. Team focused, All they can do , as G Money stated start of season.. go after the UH record for most wins in season 28 .. one more than Riley’s Savo led 2nd NCAA bound team..

    Go Bows !!
    Starts very shortly later tonite, Wed, SSC, 700 pm.. rock on, servante warriorhaw, and all on this forum who can be there, I cannot, once again, homebound, however. would it Not Be Awesome if 5800 could be in attendance with 300 Manoa Maniacs. going crazy..
    Rock On.. Rock the SSC, !!

  3. Let’s Go Bows! Let’s Go Bows! Let’s Go Bows!

  4. Conference Play Begins.

    Pomeroy ranks Hawaii at 152 – Cal Poly 146.

    BPI ranks Hawaii at 139/3rd place in conference – Cal Poly 158/6th place finish.

    Las Vegas Odds, Hawaii by 4 pts. Over/under 130.5.

    Game is going to come down to TO’s and Free Throws. Can’t get into early foul trouble with our shortened team. The higher scoring game we have, the better for UH.

    GO BOWZ…this is for real!

  5. Hello conference play! Part 2 of the season begins today, and it all comes down to this. I agree with RunBows, Hawaii can sweep at home and split on the road for a 12-4 conference record. I’m trying to temper expectations for this team, but as previously stated, this team has a lot more potential than where they’re currently at. It starts tonight by taking down last years post season conference champs. I believe our style of play counters theirs and if we can control the tempo, the game will end in our favor. Very excited to watch tonight, let’s GO BOWS!

  6. TIME For The Brightest Big West Season…. and A Bright Vision…

    GO ʻBows!
    START Strong! 1-0!

    Keep Improvinʻ ʻBows!
    Defensive Intensity, Shut-Down D, Shut-Down Threes
    Minimize Unnecessary Fouls, Take Charges, Shut-Down Drive Lanes
    Get More 50-50 Balls, Block-outs, Beat ‘Em to Rebounds
    MAKE the Free-Throws, Make the Lay-Ups, Put-Backs, Nail the Shots

    Keep Ahead, Keep Winning!
    BETTER and Better Yet

    This Team IS Capable of Better
    And Learning from Mistakes / Past Shortcomings
    Stepping Up Again…More

    Such As,
    NO MORE High Point Giveaways, Loss of Focus
    No More San Francisco Weak Legs or Mental Prep
    No More BYU Player-Shortages, Play 40, Whoever’s Available
    NO MORE Wichita Escapes, Block ‘Em Out, Put ‘Em Away

    BIG SEASON, Big West Season Begins
    Nice Growth and Prep To Here, So Far
    NOW Steppin’ Up and Forward
    ? To The HEAD of the Class ?
    ? To the Top of The Big West ?
    No More Hanging Out at 4, 5, 6 Like the Prognosticators and Predictors Think
    WE Change “Their” Mindset”
    SILENCE The Boo-Birds,
    AND Small-Minds
    I Think
    YOU GUYS Are Way Bigger Than All That
    You Haven’t Even Had A Lights Out Game Yet
    Start The LIGHTS-ON Season!

    [Then About Eight or Nine Weeks Down the Road
    You’ll HAVE The Horse-Power and Voltage To Step Into…
    The Higher, Biighter, Post-Big-West, National Bright Lights…
    RE: The Beach? UNLV? That’s the Pattern, The Ticket….]

    GO ‘BOWS!

  7. I am a little bit worried about this game because Nevels is out. He is the leader of this team and you can see him always talking to the younger players and saying stuff to get the team pumped up during the time outs.

    Isaac Fleming can get the job done and might even get you more points but losing Nevels is like losing a coach on the floor and not to mention that is one less guy in the rotation that is already not that big. Everybody else just have to be ready to step up and lets hope no foul troubles for anybody.

    Cal Poly they play very discipline ball and always gave Gib teams problems but this UH team plays different style to take advantage of speed and quickness.

  8. Cal Poly stresses drills on angles, spacing and passing and catching in practices per McInnis and Callero on sports animals show. But UH will try to disrupt them .

    Anyone for a one-year extension ? D Reardon said today, Benjy reportedly turned down a one-year extension offer from the UH administration. Benji said there have been no realistic offers to consider. He does have an agent.

  9. As we know, every game Hawaii plays gets bigger and bigger… tonight’s game is huge.

    *LOSING tonight, I think, will erase much of the success we’ve had this season so far.. and strike a huge blow to the confidence of Hawaii’s players.

    *WINNING tonight will do 3 things: 1) Validate our success, our talent, our coaching, and the key victories we’ve had so far this season, 2) Show the Big West that despite ALL the video everyone has of Hawaii so far, you CANNOT fully game plan against us and you CANNOT predict what Hawaii will do on any given night no matter how much you prepare, and 3) We are deep enough to win any game (against any Big West team) even when we have key players injured (like Nevels).


    1. WHO WILL DAVID NWABA GUARD? – David Nwaba is arguably the best defensive guard in the Big West. If Nevels was healthy, I’m pretty sure Nwaba would guard him. But tonight, he could guard Bobbitt, Valdes, or even Fleming. If I was Coach Joe Callero, I’d have him guard Bobbitt. I’ve noticed that when teams disrupt Bobbitt on the offensive end (like against High Point), he gets sloppy and frustrated on defense too… and we’re not the same team.

    2. CONTRAST of STYLES – A large portion of Hawaii’s points come from causing turnovers and fast break points. That’s the ONE thing Cal Poly doesn’t do… turn the ball over. Which style will win out? If we can’t score transition points, we need to shoot a high percentage just t be able to keep up.

    3. BRIAN BENNETT – Bennett is Cal Poly’s biggest and most effective player inside. At 6 foot 9 and over 250 pounds, he is immense. Which of Hawaii’s players will guard him? Bennett is Cal Poly’s 2nd leading scorer behind Nwaba… so he’s licking his chops when he sees a smaller Mike Thomas. Does Benjy bring in the Stefans earlier than usual? I’m curious what Benjy’s thinking about when it comes to this matchup.

    4. THE ABSENCE of GARRETT NEVELS – Isaac Fleming is Hawaii’s most UNPREDICTABLE player… are we going to see the DHC Fleming or the Fleming we saw in Florida? Fleming could be the X-Factor tonight against Cal Poly.

  10. Mahalo for your invaluable insight heading into tonight’s game.

  11. UH offering Coach Benjy a one year deal is such a joke by the UH administration. They never stop to amaze me with the bumbling and fumbling! Just when you think they actually might be learning something about running a Division 1 athletic department, then here comes the FUMBLE!!!

    Benjy himself said the other day that time is running out for recruiting this year and he cant keep the recruits hanging with no plan for the future. Before you know it all of them will choose other programs.

    It really is starting to look and feel like UH administration planned to burn this basketball team to the ground so they could start from scratch next year and put us die hard fans through another decade of misery. They assumed Benjy and this team would fold and a new coach could come in next year to “clean up.” The only problem is Coach Benjy and the remaining Warriors decided to stand and fight!

    Whether UH administration likes it or not, Coach Benjy and this team now making national news for their basketball. They deserve to be rewarded for that!

  12. Well Dayton do you know if the BB team will be allowed to participate in this years conf. Tournament. I’m ready to buy my ticket. Everybody show up tonight Warriior Time!

  13. I’m not sure who reported it… whether it was Reardon or McInnis… but it was leaked that the NCAA penalties would NOT include a ban from the post season for Hawaii… it could be other things, like scholarships…

    I wish I could nail down where the article was… but I know I read it about 2 weeks ago.

  14. UH, so when was the first”decade” of misery? Gotta have that if you say admin putting you through another one. Just asking……

  15. ^^^ You must be one young buggah! I’m happy you ask because us old timers sometimes forget that you young guys don’t know the history. The last time the NCAA came down hard on the UH basketball team was 1975-76. Bruce O’Neal was fired in the middle of the season and Rick Pitino took his place. Yep, this is the same Rick Pitino you see holding championship trophies now. UH could of had him but the administration wanted to clean house so they let him go after the season and all the top recruits ran away.

    They brought in Larry Little to clean up and he was nice man and came into a bad situation but he never could win big games as a coach. UH administration kept him on way too long and probably because he was cheap.

    After Larry, the first Coach Arnold came in and … no comment because those years was the lowest of the lows. After that was Riley Wallace and even he struggled at first. He turned it around and got the fans excited again with taking teams to the NIT but that was the late 1980s already.

    If you add up all those years, thats actually more than a decade of misery after the first NCAA hammer pounded us. That is why I say I dont want to go through that again.

    I don’t know if any of the information is wrong, but that’s what I remember. Maybe some of you other old timers like Eagle and RunBows can add what you remember.

  16. Didn’t the NCAA rule that Pitino had to sever his ties to the UH program?

  17. Good response Chuck and clyde; here’s my response which you got in before mine.

    One period of not too good times was 1975-76 to 1977-78, only about 3 years, when the program was hit with probation for two years. “The N.C.A.A. committee on infractions recommended in 1977 that Pitino and O’Neil be disassociated from Hawaii athletics. ”

    1977-78 we had a record of 1-26 . After that it was 10-17 and never fell below 10 victories for six more years under Larry Little. Little started in 1976-77 and coached for nine seasons. He had two years of 17 victories, one of 14, the rest were “losing” seasons. Prior to coming to UH, he had been HC at Centenary and had a player named Robert Parish, 7′ 0″, on his roster. One of his assistants was Riley Wallace, i think.

    Then there was a period of 1985- 1987, or two seasons, when the coach and team did not do too well , 4-24 and 7-21. The next year, Riley was 4-25, but the next UH was 17-13.


  18. So 17 win seasons (twice) under Little was “misery”. Funny how 17 wins now gets Gib knighted but under Little it is misery. Arnold senior was lost few years then came Wallace. First year terrible and after that was only the winningest coach in UH history. Wish I was younger but thanks for compliment. I just think “decade of misery” is a bit of an overstatement. Pitino was never going to stay at UH. Shame was how admin treated Rocha. Look up records of coaches you mention.

  19. Little had six losing seasons including his first year at 9-18 and one year at 13-14; with 3 consecutive winning seasons midstream in his tenure. Considering his first year, Frank and Riley’s first years, Benji is doing a bang up job, but maybe he has better players .

  20. Thanks clyde and islandman. That makes more sense that Pitino was ordered by NCAA to disassociate from UH because he never likes to mention his UH years, right?

    Pupule, no need to argue for argument sake. I think you and others know what I mean by saying those were some down years for UH. I took your advice and I looked up the records and for the years of 1975 to 1989, the UH teams had a record of 127 wins and 231 losses. Yes, there were two 17 win seasons under Coach Little but I don’t remember that as being great years. That was two good years in 13 seasons so I am just saying for me it was misery. If you were there and happy for all those years, you are a great fan!

  21. In looking up Parish, i found that Centenary was put on probation for 6 years at that time :

    ” The school’s basketball program was put on probation for 6 years, during which time it was not only barred from postseason play, but its results and statistics were excluded from weekly statistics and its existence was not acknowledged in the NCAA’s annual press guides. ”

    As a result, his rebounding records are not recorded in NCAA records .” He averaged 21.6 points and 16.9 rebounds per game during his Centenary career.”


  22. Wow, Aaron hit an extra long 3-pointer, at the end of the above video .

  23. Wonder overreaction? Other …?
    Team and Benjy wonderful give UH athletics fans something to cheer about..
    one game…now THIS game the most important of season for Benjy and team
    resilient bunch , even if lose they will come roaring back..

    Go Bows…win numbah one
    hope, man hoping 5000+ come to SSC for game
    maybe Jamie Smith there !!

  24. Check BM response to “crisis mode” for UH MBB …?
    He has funny, comical reply…whaat?

    Go Bows !!

  25. Ahhhh ! But I don’t think we will make that mistake again.
    Lots of energy on the D. Valdes came on strong .

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