Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Throwdown Thursday: Hawai’i vs. UC Irvine for first place


The “one game at a time” mentality has worked wonders for the University of Hawai’i basketball team this season, but truth be told, February 11 has been a target date for a while.

The Warriors will host UC Irvine on Thursday, February 11, in a much-anticipated and hyped game for first place in the Big West Conference. The showdown is expected to start around 8:00 p.m. at the Stan Sheriff Center, following a women’s game between Hawai’i and Long Beach State.

Hawai’i is 18-3 overall and 7-1 in the conference; UCI is 18-6 and 7-1.

“It’s just a big game for us,” junior forward Aaron Valdes said. “Last year they beat us in the (Big West Tournament) championship. We didn’t really stay composed at the end, so I think coming out this game we just have to play smart, play together.”

The Anteaters have won the last four meetings against Hawai’i, including three times last year. Adding to the bitterness, UCI eliminated the Warriors from the 2013 and 2015 Big West Conference Tournaments.

“We definitely think about that,” senior guard Quincy Smith said. “We can’t take them lightly. We lost to them two times last year and then in the Big West Tournament, so we’re trying to get revenge on them.”

As if the battle for first place were not enough, this game also pits the Big West’s best statistical offensive team (Hawai’i) against the best statistical defensive team (UCI).

The Warriors are averaging league bests of 79.2 points per game and a .468 field goal percentage. The Anteaters are allowing league lows of 63.9 points per game while limiting opponents to a .378 field goal percentage.

The Anteaters usually rely on a zone defense that features 7-foot-6 junior center Mamadou N’diaye anchored near the basket.

“They got big 7-footers in the zone and they really extend it out and try to tunnel guys into Mamadou to take bad shots,” Smith said. “If we just share the ball, take good shots, rebound and push the ball in transition, we should be fine.”


Valdes added about N’diaye: “He really cleans up everything in there for them. Without him in there, they wouldn’t be as good defensively.”

The Warriors have a quality “big” of their own in 6-11 junior Stefan Jankovic, the reigning Big West Player of the Week. He leads the team in scoring (15.3) and rebounding (6.6) and has a .561 field goal percentage.

Valdes is averaging 14.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, and senior point guard Roderick Bobbitt is contributing 13.0 points, 5.5 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game.

Smith (7.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists) and 6-7 junior forward Mike Thomas (8.0 points, 5.0 rebounds) are the other starters.

Sophomore guard Isaac Fleming (11.2 points, 2.7 rebounds) has missed the last two games with an ankle injury, and is considered questionable for Thursday’s game. With or without him, the key Hawai’i reserves will be center Stefan Jovanovic, forward Sai Tummala, and guards Niko Filiopovich and Sheriff Drammeh.


UCI’s offense features a balanced attack, led by experienced backcourt duo of 6-3 junior Luke Nelson and 6-2 senior Alex Young. Nelson is averaging 13.0 points, 3.8 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game, and leads the team with 50 3-pointers. Young is averaging 8.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game; he has 100 assists and just 25 turnovers this season. This is the third consecutive season that Nelson and Young have started together at UCI.

N’diaye is averaging 12.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots per game, and has a .660 field goal percentage. Mike Best, a 6-10 senior forward, is contributing 8.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Ioannis Dimakopoulos, a 7-2 junior, is averaging 5.5 points and 2.8 rebounds per game as the back-up for both N’diaye and Best.

The Anteaters are coming off their longest break between games this season. Their last game – a 78-72 overtime win at Cal Poly – was on February 3.

A large crowd is expected at the Sheriff Center, though it remains to be seen if a second consecutive sellout can be achieved. Hawai’i’s previous home game was a sellout (10,300 tickets issued) but resulted in a 78-64 loss to Long Beach State.

The last time the Hawai’i basketball team played in front of back-to-back sellouts was at the end of the 1997-98 season.

Thursday, February 11, 8:00 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
Tickets: Lower Level – $26 for all available seats; Upper Level – $18 for adults, $16 for senior citizens (ages 65-older), $5 for students (ages 4-18). Parking is $6.
Doubleheader: Women’s game featuring Hawai’i vs. Long Beach State starts at 5:30 p.m. Fans with tickets to the men’s game can enter early to watch the women’s game.
TV: Live on OCSports (channels 16 and 1016 in Hawai’i)
Internet video: Live on www.bigwest.tv
Radio: Live on ESPN 1420 AM
Internet audio: Live on www.espn1420am.com
Live stats: www.hawaiiathletics.com
Promotions: Oceanic Time Warner Cable will distribute 500 rally towels prior to the game.
Wear black shirts: Thursday is a “Blackout Night” and all fans are encouraged to wear black shirts.

Screen shot 2016-02-10 at 10.28.22 PM

Wednesday’s Big West Games
at CSUN 75, Cal State Fullerton 69

Thursday’s Big West Games
Cal Poly at Long Beach State
UC Santa Barbara at UC Davis
UC Irvine at Hawai’i, 8:00 p.m.

Saturday’s Big West Games
Long Beach State at UC Davis
CSUN at UC Irvine
Cal Poly at UC Riverside
Cal State Fullerton at Hawai’i, 7:00 p.m.


  1. I really hope our guys watched the Irvine-St. Mary’s game. Mamadou was non-factor against the Gaels.

  2. Let’s Go Bows! Let’s Go Bows! Let’s Go Bows!

  3. Tavs,
    I did not see that St.Mary’s vs. UCI game and assume you did. Do we have players to mimic St. Mary’s game plan against UCI? Hopefully UCI is a one dimensional team this year and can’t fix their flaws. Is is being a team of height but lacks quickness to defend athletic players?

    This is an important game for the conference standings @ 1st place but there is the Conference Tourney which is Much Bigger where the winner goes on to the Dance and being that said I hope Ganot will not chance playing Fleming unless he’s completely healed.

    I remember last years game with UCI, Fleming penetrating and attacking the basket for a layup only to have Mamadou swat his shot attempt away. Fleming smiled, ahhhh man I liked how Fleming dealt with that and bet he’d challenge Mamadou even more this year.

  4. Let’s get it boys. Wish I was there to see the boys live in action.

  5. UCI M Basketball ‏@UCImbb Feb 9
    “Going into the game we have a lot of momentum so we’re looking to get a win.” – Jaron on the clash with Hawai’i

  6. A little off topic, but quite informative: Ferd Lewis reporting this morning that UH filed its appeal of the postseason ban on Monday. It’s strongly worded, accusing the NCAA panel of “abuse” and throwing its support behind the current players “who had nothing to do with the underlying violations.”

    Problem is, an NCAA spokeswoman told Ferd that an appeals case typically takes 5 to 8 months to be resolved.

    Well, focus is on the current season and tonight’s game. Tickets in hand …

  7. Hope to see 2 UH victories tonite! Warriors and the

    Wahine! Should be good crowd.

  8. I think the biggest key for this game might be the refs. Lets hope and pray they dont call tick tack stuff on the outside so Q and Rod can play physical and work for some steals to rattle the Irvine offense. Mike T and Janks both have to stay out of foul trouble and try get Mamadou in foul trouble.

    If any of our starters get in foul trouble early it could be ugly especially if Isaac don’t play. On the other end, if Mamadou, Young or Nelson get in early foul trouble for Irvine then UH have to really step on the gas and make it ugly for Irvine.

  9. Pocho,

    You can watch highlights from the Irvine-St. Mary’s game on YouTube. Yes, I think we have the right type of players to do just as well as St. Mary’s did.

    If our guys play smart, fight hard, and focus every second then I know we’ll win.

  10. Hmmm… I don’t mean to sound racist, but St. Mary’s players are almost ALL Caucasian. I wonder if Coach Ganot will be going in that direction in a few years, after the current players move on.

  11. As I watch the you tube video, you can see that the St. Mary’s players are very skilled and good shooters, but they’re not great athletes. Nonetheless, they shoot well, they pass well, they play very good team defense, and they win. Sort of like Hawaii, but with white players.

  12. I hear all this talk about Ganot and recruiting… “How is he going to recruit athletes? Can he recruit the same kind of athletes as Gib and Taylor? Where will he get his athletes from?”

    Well, follow the recruitment blueprint of St. Mary’s and you’ll do just fine. Last I checked, St. Mary’s has been a very good mid-major for the last 12 or so years under Randy Bennett (who is Ganot’s mentor), and they don’t necessarily have the most athletic players. Yet… THEY WIN.

  13. I think you recruit the best players that fit your system that gives you the best chance to WIN. Regardless of skin color, height, etc. UH has had many 7 footers that never made an impact so we should be less concerned about tangibles and skin color and focus more on the performance on the court and what they bring to the team.

  14. You CAN BET Eran GOT St.Mary’s Scout Report & Post-Game RE-Analysis

    IF IRVINE IS REDUCED to One-Dimensionality,
    This Week AND Next Week (RE-Match!)
    It WILL BE Through The Great Efforts of The ‘BOWS And Coaching Staff

    From Long Beach, We “Should” KNOW

    They ARE Also 7-1, TOP of Conference (ONE FAIL, Like Us)
    [WE MIGHT have Isaac Back NEXT Week]
    Possibly The Best FrontCourt (You HEAR That, Janks, Aaron, Mike, Sai, Stefan?)

    I Know YOU ALL Know…
    IRVINE has WON Four, Almost FIVE In a ROW (Against UH)
    NOW Is The Time For Another TOTAL REVERSAL!
    (Just Like UCSB, Cal-Poly…)
    It Will Take TONIGHT, ~10 days PLUS The Tourney
    BUT I AM Looking FOR The Beginning Of HAWAI’I DOMINANCE of The Big West…
    The Way The Beach And UNLV Did Before Them…

    GO, GO, GO, ‘BOWS!
    Have Some Of YOUR BEST Games Against IRVINE
    Assume That’s What it Will Take to WIN
    WIN, ‘BOWS!

  15. Such an exciting time for Hawaii fans!

    I feel the Bows have matured even more since the long beach game.

    The guys just need to lock in and play smart basketball! They need to
    Want it more!

    I believe in these guys! Let’s go Bows!!

  16. Our rivalry with Irvine reminds me of the days when we we were in the WAC. We could never beat BYU in football. But then the tables turned and we beat them two years in a row. We not only beat them but we thrashed them punctuated with the electrifying returns from Chad Owens.

  17. njacinto,

    St. Mary’s got Paddy Mills from Australia and they were smart enough to turn that into their goldmine for recruiting. Ganot already showing that he not afraid to poach into this area for UH. The bigger challenge for him will be recruiting out the rest of the roster. St. Mary’s fills out with California talent from South Cal and North Cal because they are right there.

    Hard to follow that blueprint in Hawaii because no such thing as D1 talent in South HI and North HI, or anyplace in HI actually. If he does follow the blueprint and can turn local kids like Kalaugher, Hogland, Whitlock and others into D1 stars AND make UH compete for Big West title every year, Ganot will be god status over here.

    A more real plan is Ganot and his assistants have to find more goldmines besides Australia to build UH like St. Mary’s.

  18. McInnis ‏@Brian_McInnis 24m ago

    Per UH, about 1,600 tickets left for tonight’s #HawaiiWBB/#HawaiiMBB doubleheader.

  19. Oh, and since the race card was pulled out I will bring out the religion card. The name of St. Mary’s alone and them being a private school helps with recruiting certain kids and families. These are usually kids who fit better in systems with discipline like St. Mary’s.

    UH = public school so no advantage like that

  20. UH 5.5 pt favorite, but the game is where it counts.

  21. Let’s go bows!! Play like Warriors tonight!!!

  22. Hawaii will never produce D1 talent in basketball. Guys like Senseley and Low and such are aberrations.

    no matter, we’ll find talent.

  23. For Attendance, For The Love of The Fans…
    We Need to GET Most of The Aberrations

    Riley Considered D.Low ‘Cost’ Coach His Career Continuity/Longevity…
    GOT TO BREAK Open The Waiakea-Wash St. Sewer Line
    (Forged In Negativity, It’s JUST a BIG Desert (Nuclear) Wasteland, Like Vegas, Out There….
    FIRST Big Electro-Magnetic Pulse, Sun or Man-Made,
    The GRID Crashes and Those Climes Become UN-Livable…)


    Go ‘Bows!

  24. Xer 21; don’t say never.

    Hawaii had two high-major D-1 kids playing just last year. They were plucked off the island this summer.

    Sueing is doing very well up at Mater Dei, as well as Samuta Avea up in Utah. Both have Pac-12 schools pursuing them closely.

    There are other athletes on the island that can really play.

  25. The idea that we need local kids for attendance is ridiculous. Talent is talent.

  26. Where are You From and
    How Many UH Sports do you Watch?

    100, 500, 2000

    Local Athletes HELP All Sports

    ONLY Wouldn’t Matter IF We’re Already Selling Out
    NO Sports are Doing that Now

    Actually DON’T Care What Ridiculous YOU Think
    It’s What The Coaches Believe
    They ARE Smarter…
    ALL Give High Priority to Local Talent
    (But We Need ‘Em All…)

  27. If you’re not in the arena right now, you’re missing one hell of a game.

    Refs better not ruin it

  28. Zebras are making it too obvious

  29. Awesome win tonight. Undisputed First Place ! Mama whoo??
    Irvine got hit by a train ! Mamadou was a non factor Next !

Leave a Response

Login or fill in the fields below to comment. (New user? Register)