Warriors look to keep UCSB at bottom of Big West
For different reasons, the question “What’s going on here?” can relate to both the University of Hawai’i and UC Santa Barbara basketball teams.
The Warriors and Gauchos, both facing difficult situations down this stretch run of the regular season, will meet in a Big West Conference game on Thursday at Santa Barbara, Calif. It is scheduled to start at 5:00 p.m. (Hawai’i time) at The Thunderdome. It will not be televised, but streaming video is available online at www.bigwest.tv.
Hawai’i is 12-12 overall and tied for fourth place in the Big West at 6-5; UCSB is 3-20 and in last place (ninth) at 1-10.
While the Warriors are in mathematical contention for the regular-season title with five games still on the schedule, their status for the Big West Conference Tournament remains in limbo. UH has not received any indication from the NCAA if its current ban from postseason games will be lifted or not.
That decision – or non-decision – could also affect UCSB. If the Warriors are cleared to play in the Big West Conference Tournament, it would likely eliminate the Gauchos (only eight of the nine Big West teams qualify for the Big West Conference Tournament). However, if the Warriors’ postseason ban remains intact, the Gauchos would get in the conference tournament.
In any case, both teams could use a win on Thursday.
Hawai’i had its four-game win streak snapped last Saturday in a 72-58 home loss to UC Irvine. Included in that previous four-game win streak was a 78-56 home win over UCSB on January 28.
Senior forward Noah Allen scored a career-high 34 points in that win, and he leads the Warriors in scoring (15.0) and rebounding (5.7). He also leads the team with 24 steals, and is second with 31 3-pointers.
Junior forward/center Gibson Johnson is second on the team in both scoring (10.9) and rebounding (4.4); sophomore forward Jack Purchase is averaging 10.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game and ranks second in the Big West with 59 3-pointers.
Sophomore guard Sheriff Drammeh is contributing 9.4 points and 2.5 assists per game, and sophomore point guard Brocke Stepteau is at 7.1 points and 3.3 assists per game.
Freshman Leland Green sat out the last three games due to illness, but is expected to return to action this week. He was in the starting lineup prior to his illness, but his role for this week remains to be seen. He is averaging 6.7 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.
If there is a team that has surpassed Hawai’i in hard luck this season, it is UCSB. The Gauchos are on an eight-game losing streak, and on pace to record their worst season since becoming a NCAA Division I program in 1969.
The reasons are many. The Gauchos opened the season with a 2-9 record against tough competition, and it only got worse from there. Three post players – including two starters – were declared academically ineligible in December.
Two weeks ago, junior guard Gabe Vincent – the team’s best player – suffered a knee injury that will keep him sidelined the remainder of this season.
In essence, UCSB is limping to the finish line. Among the active players, the team’s leading scorer is now senior guard Eric Childress, averaging a whopping 8.3 points per game. Freshman guard Max Heidegger has been pressed into extended duty, and is averaging 8.0 points per game, but with a head-scratching .250 field goal percentage.
If anything, the Gauchos have some size with 6-foot-10 junior Alex Hart averaging 7.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. J.D. Slajchert, a 6-6, 227-pound sophomore is contributing 4.2 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, and 6-7 sophomore Maxwell Kupchak is at 3.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.
UCSB ranks at the bottom of the conference in numerous offensive categories, including scoring a 61.7 points per game (Hawai’i is averaging 68.6). The Gauchos are near the bottom of the entire NCAA Division I with a team field goal percentage of .366, and a 3-point percentage of .284.
HAWAI’I (12-12, 6-5) AT UC SANTA BARBARA (3-20, 1-10)
When: Thursday, February 16, 7:00 p.m. Pacific Time (5:00 Hawai’i time)
Where: The Thunderdome, Santa Barbara, Calif.
Streaming video: www.bigwest.tv
Radio: ESPN1420 AM
Streaming audio: www.espn1420am.com
Live statistics: www.ucsbgauchos.com
Cal Poly 85, at CSUN 71
Hawai’i at UC Santa Barbara, 5:00 p.m. (Hawai’i time)
UC Davis at Long Beach State
Cal State Fullerton at UC Riverside
Long Beach State at UC Santa Barbara
UC Davis at Cal State Fullerton
UC Riverside at UC Irvine
Hawai’i at Cal Poly, 5:00 p.m. (Hawai’i time)
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