Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Warriors aim for redemption at Riverside

Ten days ago, the University of Hawai’i basketball team had its ego crushed when previously-winless UC Riverside ran out of the Stan Sheriff Center with an improbable upset victory over the Rainbow Warriors.

Valentine’s Day has come and gone since then, and the Warriors appear to have found their heart. They’ll need it on Saturday, when they try to avenge that loss to the Highlanders in a Big West Conference rematch.

UCR will host Hawai’i at the UCR Student Rec Center at 5:30 p.m. (Hawai’i time). The game will be televised on Fox Sports Prime Ticket (Spectrum channels 228/1228 in Hawai’i).

Hawai’i is 14-10 overall and in sixth place in the Big West at 5-6. The Highlanders are 7-18 overall and in ninth (last) place at 2-9.

Both teams are coming off wins – Hawai’i upset second-place UC Irvine, 62-61, at Irvine, Calif., on Thursday; UCR scored a 69-62 road win at eighth-place CSUN on Wednesday.

The Hawai’i victory on Thursday snapped a baffling five-game losing streak that included losses to the three lowest teams in the Big West (UCR, CSUN and Cal Poly). In the aftermath of the win at Irvine, the Warriors’ confidence reappeared.

“I don’t know if I recognized us and I had a lot to do with that,” head coach Eran Ganot said of the team’s losing streak. “I did not put our guys in a situation to succeed in that stretch. I’m so proud of them to stick together like they have. It’s a special moment right now and we have to build off it.”

On February 7, Hawai’i shot a season-low 33.3 percent from the field, and still lost by only four points, 64-60. Ganot made some drastic changes to the rotation for that game, giving freshman Samuta Avea and sophomore Zigmars Raimo the first starts of their respective collegiate careers.

The Warriors have since returned to their traditional starters: Brocke Stepteau , Drew Buggs and Leland Green (or Sheriff Drammeh) at guards, and Mike Thomas and Gibson Johnson at forwards.

Thomas scored 18 points in the loss to UC Riverside, and leads the Warriors in scoring (13.5), rebounding (6.1), field goal percentage (.577), and free throws made (96) and attempted (134), yet ranks seventh on the team in minutes played (23.5).

Drammeh is averaging 10.9 points per game, and has made 23 of his last 25 free throw attempts. Johnson is averaging 9.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game; Stepteau is contributing 9.8 points per game; Buggs is at 7.8 points and 3.6 assists per game. Junior forward Jack Purchase had 10 rebounds in the loss to Riverside, and is currently averaging 7.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, and also leads the team with 40 3-pointers.

The wildcard factor in UCR’s upset win at Hawai’i 10 days ago was 7-foot junior center Menno Djikstra. He scored a season-high 17 points, including 3-of-4 shooting from 3-point range. He has not scored in double-figures against any other Big West team, and is averaging 5.8 points and 3.0 rebounds for the season.

Chance Murray, a 6-3 senior guard, scored 16 points in the first game at Hawai’i, and is averaging 11.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.

A key factor this time could be the return of Dikymbe Martin and Alex Larsson. Both players did not see action in Honolulu (Martin was suspended; Larsson was injured), but returned to the court this week.

Martin, a 6-1 sophomore guard, leads the team with 13.3 points per game. Larsson, a 6-10, 260-pound senior center, is averaging 10.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.

UCR needs to win at least one more game to be in contention to make the cut for the eight-team Big West Conference Tournament. Hawai’i is essentially playing for a higher seed. The Warriors are just two games behind fourth place Cal State Fullerton.

Hawai’i (14-10, 5-6 Big West) at UC Riverside (7-18, 2-9 Big West)
Saturday, Feb. 17, 7:30 p.m. PT/5:30 p.m. HT
Where: UCR Rec Center (3,168) – Riverside, Calif.
Television: Fox Sports Prime Ticket.
Streaming Video: FoxSportsGo.com/FoxSportsGo app.
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

Saturday’s Games
UC Davis at UC Santa Barbara
CSUN at Cal State Fullerton
UC Irvine at Cal Poly
Hawai’i at UC Riverside, 5:30 p.m. HT

1 Comment

  1. Thomas sitting this one out for precautions from injury sustained on Thursday. He took an elbow to the jaw that could have been called a flagrant foul but was not reviewed. Perhaps a concussion? Whatever it is, hope he can recover in time for Thursday’s game.

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