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Warriors will be tested by Utah Valley after finals

Fresh off completing “finals week,” the University of Hawai’i basketball team will be tested against a battle-tested Utah Valley team on Sunday.

The 6-2 Rainbow Warriors, who last played on December 9, will host the 7-4 Wolverines from the Western Athletic Conference at 5:00 p.m. at the Stan Sheriff Center on Sunday. The game will be televised in Hawai’i on Spectrum Sports (channels 16 / 1016).

The eight days between games for the Warriors was not exactly all about focusing on Utah Valley. Final examinations took place all of last week on the UH-Manoa campus.

“Oh man, it’s nice, I get to focus on just basketball for the next three weeks,” freshman forward Samuta Avea said, noting that he completed his last final exam on Friday.

Now the Warriors will have to prove their worth against a Utah Valley squad that gained national attention for opening its season with back-to-back road games at Kentucky and Duke in a span of 24 hours. The Wolverines lost by 10 at Kentucky, then by 30 at Duke.

Utah Valley has played two other Big West Conference teams – beating UC Davis, 80-71, then losing at Cal State Fullerton, 91-83.

“They’re a really skilled basketball team,” UH senior forward Gibson Johnson said. “They have size, they have shooters, and they know what they’re doing.”

If there is a Hawai’i player familiar with the Wolverines, it is Johnson. His younger brother, McKay, is a backup guard. Connor Toolson, a 6-4 junior, is a starting guard for the Wolverines, and a former teammate of the Johnson brothers at Salt Lake Community College. Those three were part of the junior college national championship team at Salt Lake CC in 2016.

What’s more, Gibson Johnson said he spends much of his off-seasons playing in pick-up games with the Utah Valley players.

“I’ve played with this (Utah Valley) team for the last two summers,” he said. “I know those guys fairly well, and obviously my brother is on the team. It’s going to be a fun matchup.”

Johnson, in particular, will face a tall task. At 6 feet 8, Johnson is the tallest player in Hawai’i’s starting lineup. Utah Valley’s starting center is 7-foot, 245-pound center Akolda Manyang. He is a transfer from Oklahoma and currently leads the Wolverines in scoring (15.3), rebounding (9.5), blocked shots (2.9), and has a .670 field goal percentage.

Manyang and the other four Utah Valley starters average double-figure points. The others are 6-7 junior Kenneth Ogbe (13.4 points, 3.3 rebounds per game), 6-5 sophomore Jake Toolson (13.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists per game), 6-4 junior Connor Toolson (11.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists per game, 26 3-pointers), and 6-2 senior Brandon Randolph (10.5 points, 4.9 assists, 4.5 rebounds per game.

Utah Valley’s five starters get the majority of the points and minutes, but the Warriors will counter with a group effort.

Mike Thomas, a 6-7 senior, leads the Warriors in both scoring (13.1) and rebounding (6.9). Gibson Johnson is next in both categories, with 10.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.

At least seven other players are in the usual rotation for Hawai’i: point guards Drew Buggs (7.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists) and Brocke Stepteau (9.4 points, 2.3 assists), shooting guards Leland Green (8.1 points, 2.3 rebounds), Sheriff Drammeh (8.0 points and 2.7 rebounds) and Brandon Thomas (3.4 points, 1.6 rebounds), and forwards Jack Purchase (6.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists) and Samuta Avea (6.3 points, 3.2 rebounds).

HAWAI’I (6-2, 0-0 Big West) vs. UTAH VALLEY (7-4, 0-0 WAC)
When:
Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017, 5:00 p.m. (Hawai’i Time)
Where: Stan Sheriff Center (10,300) – Honolulu, HI
Television: Live on Spectrum Sports – Channels 16 (SD) and 1016 (HD).
Streaming Video: BigWest.TV (Must be a Spectrum cable subscriber to stream in Hawai’i).
Radio: Live on ESPN 1420 AM with. 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
Ticket Information: Lower Level – $30 for all seats; Upper Level (prices vary by section) – $18 or $20 for adults, $16 or $18 for senior citizens (65-older), $5 or $7 for students (ages 4 to high school). UH Manoa students free with validated ID. Parking is $6..
Promotions: California Hotel and Casino is the game sponsor and will award a Vacations Hawaii trip to Las Vegas during the Shaka nene dance contest at halftime. Sign up for your chance to win at the sports marketing table at Gate A. Basketball fans are encouraged to take pictures at the FREE UH Holiday Photo Booth located on the Ewa side of the Stan Sheriff Center concourse.

1 Comment

  1. Wahine trailed 58-46 with about 61/2 minutes to play, then went on a 17-0 run and pulled out at 65-60 win at Arizona.

    One down, one to go.

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