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Warriors host UC Davis in battle of Big West contenders

UC Davis increased its home winning streak to 17 this week, the fifth-longest such streak in the nation. That hardly matters on Saturday, because the University of Hawai’i will be the home team when it hosts UC Davis in a key Big West Conference basketball game.

The Rainbow Warriors and Aggies are currently tied for second place in the Big West with 3-1 records. Hawai’i is 12-5 overall, while UCD is 12-6.

First-place Cal State Fullerton is 4-1 in the conference, and will play a road game at Long Beach State on Saturday. Should Fullerton lose that game, the Hawai’i vs. UCD winner will move into sole possession of first place.

The Warriors are on a three-game win streak, including a thrilling 77-76 victory over UC Santa Barbara last Saturday. Hawai’i has had a full week since then to prepare for the Aggies, who won the Big West Conference Tournament last season and played in the NCAA Tournament.

Hawai’i has emerged as the top defensive team in the conference so far, allowing just 64.0 points per game against Big West opponents. The Warriors have been especially stingy on the perimeter, allowing just 17 3-pointers on 25 percent shooting from long range in four conference games.

Senior forward Mike Thomas has been the Hawai’i catalyst during Big West play. In UH’s four conference games, he averaged 16.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting an impressive 83.3 percent (25 for 30) from the field. Overall, he leads the team in scoring (12.7), rebounding (6.2), and field goal percentage (.602).

Junior guard Sheriff Drammeh is next at 11.8 points per game, and is also contributing 3.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game, in addition to being one of the leaders of the team’s perimeter defense. Senior forward/Gibson Johnson is contributing 10.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, and averaged 13.0 points and 4.0 rebounds per game in two games against UCD last season.

Junior guard Brocke Stepteau is averaging 9.9 points and 2.5 assists per game and is tied for the team lead with 24 3-pointers. He has been slowed in practices this week with an injured finger on his right (shooting) hand.

Freshman guard Drew Buggs is contributing 7.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and a team-high 3.6 assists per game.

Recent key contributors off the bench include junior forward Jack Purchase (6.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game) and sophomore guard Leland Green (6.0 points, 2.1 rebounds per game).

It will take another team effort by Hawai’i to counter a UCD team that features the leading candidate for Big West Player of the Year in 6-foot-6 senior forward Chima Moneke. He is averaging 19.0 points and 9.9 rebounds per game, and has recorded 10 double-doubles this season. He gets most of his points from near the basket, and is also adept at drawing fouls – he leads the Big West with 142 free throw attempts.

UCD beat Hawai’i twice last season, and Moneke averaged 20.0 points and 11.0 rebounds in the two games.

While Moneke is the main option for the Aggies, he is not the only one. Siler Schneider, a 6-3 junior guard, is averaging 13.4 points and 2.7 rebounds per game, and leads UCD with 23 3-pointers.

TJ Shorts II, a 5-9 junior point guard, is contributing 12.9 points and 3.8 assists per game, and leads the team with 34 steals.

The other usual starters are 6-3 senior Michael Onyebalu (4.4 points, 3.2 rebounds) and 6-7 junior Garrison Goode (3.8 points, 3.1 rebounds).

UCD is led by Jim Les, who is in his seventh season as head coach of the Aggies. Eran Ganot is in his third season as head coach at Hawai’i.

UCD is 6-0 at home this season, and 4-5 in away games. Interestingly, Saturday’s game has potential to be the largest crowd that UCD has played in front of this season. The largest to date are 7,574 in a road loss at Nevada and 5,328 in a road loss at Washington. All of UCD’s other games – including its home games – have been played before crowds of less than 3,000.

HAWAI’I (12-5, 3-1 Big West) vs. UC DAVIS (12-6, 3-1 Big West)
When:
Saturday, Jan. 20, 7:00 p.m. HT
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: 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
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: Bank of Hawaii will sponsor the “Superhero Night” game on Saturday and will distribute 400 Superhero capes (250 – Adult; 150 – Kids) at Gate A. Visit the Bank of Hawaii table to play the “Plinko Game” and win FREE prizes. Fans can register to participate in the Bank of Hawaii halftime contest at Gate A for the chance to win $175 in gift cards. Be sure to wear your favorite Superhero gear and the H-Zone store located at Gate B will be selling Super Fan t-shirts (while supplies last). After the game, stick around to get an autograph from your favorite Men’s Basketball players at Gate B.

Big West Conference
Wednesday’s Results

at UC Davis 84, Long Beach State 75
CSUN 66, at UC Riverside 57
at UC Santa Barbara 83, Cal State Fullerton 74

Thursday’s Results
at UC Irvine 80, Cal Poly 73

Saturday’s Games
Cal Poly at CSUN
Cal State Fullerton at Long Beach State
UC Irvine at UC Santa Barbara
UC Davis at Hawai’i, 7:00 p.m.

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