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Warriors aim for breakthrough win at Long Beach

The long haul of the Big West Conference season will begin in Long Beach, Calif., for the University of Hawai’i basketball team. The Rainbow Warriors will open the 2018 Big West season with a road game at Long Beach State on Thursday at the Walter Pyramid.

The game is scheduled to start at 5:00 p.m. Hawai’i time (7:00 p.m. Pacific). It will not be televised, but is available through Internet streaming at www.espn3.com.

The Warriors went 9-4 in the pre-conference schedule, with 12 of those 13 games played in Honolulu. The 49ers went 6-10, although that includes road losses at Michigan State, Arizona, West Virginia and Missouri.

There is a factor of the unknown in a conference opener, but the mystery of the Pyramid has been a great one for Hawai’i in recent years. Since joining the Big West in the 2012-13 season, the Warriors are 0-5 against the 49ers in games played in Long Beach’s home arena. The Warriors have otherwise posted at least one win in every other current Big West team’s home arena in the last two years.

Hawai’i gained a bit of momentum last week with an 84-59 home win over Howard. The Warriors hit a season-high 13 3-pointers and had five players score in double-figures.

Junior guard Sheriff Drammeh has emerged as the team’s leading scorer at 11.8 points per game after a surge in late December. He averaged 16.4 points per game over the last five games, and earned a Big West Player of the Week honor during that span.

Senior forwards Mike Thomas and Gibson Johnson are the only players to start every game for the Warriors. Thomas is averaging 11.5 points and a team-high 6.1 rebounds per game, while Johnson is contributing 10.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.

Drammeh, Thomas and Johnson have been joined in the most recent starting lineup by guards Brocke Stepteau and Drew Buggs. Stepteau is averaging 9.5 points and 2.4 assists per game, and is shooting 60 percent from the field, 48 percent from 3-point range, and 79 percent on free throws. Buggs is averaging 6.5 points and 3.2 assists per game.

Junior forward Jack Purchase appears to be breaking out of an early-season slump, and is now averaging 7.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, while leading the team with 20 3-pointers.

The 49ers have a deep and experienced roster, and no player has started every game. Gabe Levin, a 6-foot-7, 230-pound senior, leads the team in both scoring (15.0) and rebounding (7.2). Bryan Alberts, a 6-5 junior guard who transferred from Gonzaga, is averaging 14.0 points per game and has made 41 3-pointers in 13 games while shooting 41.4 percent from 3-point range.

Deishuan Booker, a 6-3 junior point guard and JUCO transfer, is averaging 8.7 points and 5.7 assists per game. Temidayo Yussuf, a 6-7, 265-pound junior, is a returnee from last season who gave Hawai’i problems in the post. In three games against the Warriors, Yussuf averaged 16.0 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, and shot 19 for 22 (86.4 percent) from the field.

Dan Monson is in his 11th season as head coach of the 49ers, while Eran Ganot is in his third season as head coach at Hawai’i.

HAWAI’I (9-4, 0-0 Big West) at LONG BEACH STATE (6-10, 0-0 Big West)
When: Thursday, Jan. 4, 7:00 p.m. PT/5:00 p.m. HT
Where: The Pyramid (4,200) – Long Beach, Calif.
Streaming Video: ESPN3.com/Watch ESPN app.
Radio: ESPN 1420. 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

1 Comment

  1. Hawaii has the potential to win. Drammeh will need to put up points and give their guards fits. Purchase will need to hit a few 3’s. Thomas/Flaisher need to shut down Yussuf, that dude was a total nightmare against us last season. Brocke will also need to hit some clutch shots for us for us to stay in it. Overall, we’ll need to hit at least 70% of our free throw’s (since we go to the line so often) and LIMIT the turnovers! Let’s GO BOWS!

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