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Warriors aim to topple Utah

The University of Hawai’i basketball team will be facing a tall task in its first road game of this season at Utah on Saturday.

The non-conference game is scheduled to start at 2:00 p.m. (Hawai’i time) at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. It will be televised on the Pac-12 Network (available for subscribers).

The Rainbow Warriors are 4-1. The Runnin’ Utes are 5-1, including 4-0 at home.

Hawai’i has an all-time record of 1-22 against Utah in games played in Salt Lake City, and that lone victory came in 1984, when it took a half-court shot at the buzzer to give the Warriors a 69-68 win. It is also worth noting, however, that the last time Hawai’i played a road game at Utah was in 1999.

For the current rosters of Warriors and Utes, the only point of reference is one year ago, when Utah beat Hawai’i, 66-52, in a consolation semifinal of the Diamond Head Classic.

Jack Purchase scored 13 points and Brocke Stepteau scored 11 in that loss for the Warriors, and both players will likely play crucial roles again this time.

Purchase is averaging 7.0 points and team-highs of 6.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. Stepteau is averaging 9.6 points per game and has a field goal percentage of .696.

Senior forward Mike Thomas, who was slowed by a wrist injury in the Warriors’ 87-77 victory over Adams State on Monday, is averaging 13.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.

Senior forward Gibson Johnson is averaging 12.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, and this road trip has significant meaning for him. He is from Centerville, Utah, which is about 15 miles away from Salt Lake City, and he played at Salt Lake Community College prior to enrolling at UH.

Another Hawai’i player with ties to Utah is freshman forward Samuta Avea. He led Bingham High School to the Utah 5A state championship in 2016, then transferred to Kahuku High, and led the Red Raiders to the Hawai’i state championship in 2017.

Avea is averaging 6.3 points and 3.0 rebounds per game, and is part of a rotation of key contributors for the Warriors. Others not previously mentioned above include guards Leland Green (10.6 points per game), Sheriff Drammeh (8.8 points, 2.5 rebounds per game), Drew Buggs (3.4 points, 3.2 rebounds per game), and Brandon Thomas (4.6 points per game), and post players Ido Flaisher and Zigmars Raimo.

Utah was picked to finish seventh in the Pac-12 Conference Preseason Poll, and is led by a pair of 6-10 senior forwards: David Collette and Tyler Rawson.

Collette is averaging 14.7 points and 4.5 rebounds per game with a .596 field goal percentage; Rawson is averaging 10.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.

The Utes also have an experienced and explosive backcourt duo in senior Justin Bibbins and junior Sedrick Barefield. Bibbins is averaging 10.5 points, 4.5 assists, and 4.2 rebounds per game; Barefield is averaging 10.6 points, 3.2 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game.

Bibbins is a familiar face – and foe – to Hawai’i. He was the starting point guard at Long Beach State during his sophomore and junior seasons, before transferring to Utah. He averaged 18.7 points and 5.7 assists per game in three games against Hawai’i last season.

HAWAI’I (4-1, 0-0 Big West) at UTAH (5-1, 0-0 Pac-12)
When:
Saturday, Dec. 2, 5:00 p.m. (Mountain) 2:00 p.m. (Hawai’i)
Where: Huntsman Center (15,000) – Salt Lake City, Utah
Television: Pac-12 Network (subscription required)
Streaming Video: pac-12.com/Pac-12 Now app (subscription required)
Radio: Live on ESPN 1420 AM. Neighbor islands can listen live on KNUI on Maui, KPUA on the Big Island, KTOH on Kaua’i, and KNWJ in Pago Pago, American Samoa.
Audio Webcast: ESPN1420am.com/Sideline Hawai’i App.
Live Stats: HawaiiAthletics.com

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