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Warriors face tough opening test for Diamond Head Classic

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One set of exams is already complete for the University of Hawai’i basketball team, and now comes another in the form of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.

A week after completing final exams, the Warriors will be tested by three opponents in four days at the Diamond Head Classic, which is scheduled for December 22, 23 and 25 at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Hawai’i will face Illinois State at 8:30 p.m. on the opening night. The Warriors are 4-5; the Redbirds from the Missouri Valley Conference are 6-3.

The Warriors enter the tournament on a two-game losing streak, but those two losses were back on December 6 and 7. They have since had two weeks to recover and prepare, although they did take some time off to study for final exams.

The Warriors finished in third place at last year’s Diamond Head Classic, but this is clearly a new team and a new year. Among the returnees, Sheriff Drammeh (2 minutes), Brocke Stepteau (2 minutes) and Zach Buscher (1 minute) played a combined five minutes in the three games of last year’s Diamond Head Classic.

This year’s squad of five new starters is led by senior Noah Allen, who was at UCLA last season. The 6-foot-7 forward leads the team in both scoring (14.8) and rebounding (6.3).

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Gibson Johnson, a 6-8 junior forward, is averaging 11.9 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, and has been the team’s most consistent scorer of late. He is averaging 14.7 points per game with a .640 field goal percentage in the last three games.

Drammeh, a 6-3 sophomore guard, is averaging 10.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game; Jack Purchase, a 6-8 sophomore forward, is averaging 9.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.

In contrast to the youthful Warriors, Illinois State has four starters returning from a team that finished 18-14 last season. The Redbirds’ difficulties this season have come away from Normal, Ill. They 6-0 at home and 0-3 on the road, though the three losses have come against Murray State, TCU and Tulsa, by an average of 4.7 points per game.

Paris Lee, a 6-foot senior point guard, is registering elite numbers across the board so far this season: 15.7 points, 6.0 assists, 3.0 rebounds per game. He also leads the team with 20 steals, 26 3-pointers, and a .565 percentage from 3-point range. Led by Lee, the Redbirds rank among the national leaders with 9.0 steals per game.

While Lee directs the perimeter, the Redbirds appear to have a solid interior game as well. Deontae Hawkins, a 6-8 senior forward, is averaging 15.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game; MiKyle McIntosh, a 6-7 junior, is contributing 13.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game; 6-9 sophomore center Phil Fayne is averaging 10.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, and leads the team with a .600 field goal percentage.

This is the Redbirds’ first appearance in the Diamond Head Classic, but not its first time in Hawaii. Illinois State played in the Stan Sheriff Center in 1997, when Hawai’i – led by Anthony Carter and Alika Smith – beat the Redbirds, 84-63.

However, Illinois State returned to Oahu in 1998 and won three games in three nights (beat Missouri-Kansas City, Southern Miss, and Iona) to take first place in the Hawaii Pacific Shootout at the Blaisdell Center Arena.

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GAME INFO
Who:
Hawai’i (4-5, 0-0 Big West) vs. Illinois State (6-3, 0-0 Missouri Valley)
When: Thursday, December 22, 8:30 p.m. (Hawai’i time)
Where: Stan Sheriff Center (10,300) – Honolulu, HI
Tickets: Lower level – $30; Upper level – $18 (students and senior citizens can purchase $10 tickets in select sections). Parking is $6.
Television: ESPN2 (Oceanic channels 224 and 1224)
Streaming Video: www.ESPN3.com
Radio: ESPN 1420 AM
Live Stats: Statbroadcast.com

Tournament Schedule
December 22

11:30 a.m. – Tulsa vs. Stephen F. Austin
2:00 p.m. – San Diego State vs. Southern Miss
6:00 p.m. – San Francisco vs. Utah
8:30 p.m. – Hawai’i vs. Illinois State

December 23
11:30 a.m. – Tulsa/SFA winner vs. San Diego State/Southerm Miss winner
1:30 p.m. – Tulsa/SFA loser vs. San Diego State/Southern Miss loser
5:00 p.m. – USF/Utah winner vs. Hawai’i/Illinois State winner
7:30 p.m. – USF/Utah loser vs. Hawai’i/Illinois State loser

December 25
7:30 a.m. – 7th place game
9:30 a.m. – 5th place game
1:00 p.m. – 3rd place game

4 Comments

  1. The Bows gotta be ready to play strong for THREE games, all the way through and finishing strong. They don’t have to travel, but then again the other teams will be ready to play too. Looks like everyone will be healthy and has had some time to prepare for basketball. Let’s Go Bows !

  2. Man, it feels like forever since the last game. Lets Go Bows!

  3. Man, it feels like forever since the days of Bobbitt, Janks, and Valdes. Let’s Go Bows!

  4. All I want for Christmas is a Bow’s victory! Let’s go Rainbow Warriors!!
    Happy holidays to everybody!

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