Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Warriors face off with UC Irvine in Big West quarterfinals

The University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team’s journey through the Big West Conference regular season schedule ended up being a 50-50 proposition: In a mathematical oddity, the Warriors finished at 8-8 (.500) by beating each of the league’s other eight teams once, and also losing to each of the league’s other eight teams once.

(above video courtesy www.hawaiiathletics.com)

That makes any of UH’s potential three upcoming games in the Big West Conference Tournament a rubber match with increasingly higher stakes, starting with Thursday’s 4 p.m. (Hawai’i Standard Time) quarterfinal showdown with UC Irvine at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

The game will be broadcast live on radio via ESPN 1420AM and shown on TV via a delayed broadcast by FOX Prime Ticket.

The Warriors (17-12 overall) upset UC Irvine on the road, 62-61, on Feb. 15, but lost to the Anteaters (16-16) nine days later at home, 66-57. UC Irvine eventually lost at home to UC Davis, 90-84, in double overtime last Saturday and ended up with the No. 3 seed for this week’s tournament. Hawai’i, the No. 6 seed, is coming off a 68-60 victory at Cal State Fullerton last Saturday.

During a pre-tournament media conference call Monday morning, Anteaters coach Russell Turner said he and his team are not fooled by the Warriors’ low seeding.

“The fact that they’re the No.6 seed doesn’t really matter,” Turner said. “We’ve got to respect them, because if they play well, they are capable of winning. I think that is true for the whole tournament — any team is capable of winning it. If you look at the last seven years, a different team has won it every year. So we’ve all got to be able to acknowledge that, and there should be a lot of close games. But that’s what makes college basketball so great.”

UC Irvine, though, presents an especially tough challenge for UH — and everyone else, for that matter. The youthful Anteaters went through significant player turnover in the offseason and started rather slow (7-14 overall and 2-3 in the Big West). But they’ve since caught fire and returned to their elite status, winning nine of their past 11 games and putting themselves in position to have won the regular season title had they beaten UC Davis at home on Senior Night last Saturday.

“I’ve been pleased with this group’s improvement,” Turner said. “That was a heartbreaking loss (to UC Davis), but it was a great college basketball game and I thought we played well, give credit to UC Davis. But hopefully we can carry some of that momentum into the tournament, hopefully we’re a little edgy after that defeat. It was the same feeling three years ago, when we lost to Davis in the last (regular season) game, we came into the tournament as the No. 3 seed and ended up winning.”

At the same time, Turner said his team understands the Warriors can be just as dangerous.

“There’s great parity in this league, and we’re facing an excellent team in Hawai’i,” Turner said. “I did not realize that they beat every team in the conference, but it doesn’t surprise me. We’ve got a lot of respect for them, they’ve earned our respect and we know we have to play well to have success. We’re not surprised with what they’ve been able to do … I really admire what Eran and his staff have done with their program, bringing stability to that group. I’ve admired them from a distance, and we know we’ve got a tough assignment.”

Turner said the assignment — as usual — will emphasize a stalwart defense led by Jonathan Galloway, a nimble 6-foot-10 junior forward. UCI led the Big West in scoring defense, field goal percentage defense, rebounding margin and blocks.

“Our defensive level is what gives us a chance for success,” Turner said. “Galloway is a defensive leader for us — in different games, he’s had different matchups. Hawai’i relies a lot on (Mike) Thomas, (Gibson) Johnson and (Jack) Purchase, but it’ll be the strength of our defense that they’ll have to go at. The tournament is going to come down to who can perform at the biggest moments.”

As for the Warriors, Ganot said they have proved they are capable of stepping up in such moments, citing the Feb. 15 victory at UC Irvine — which snapped a season-high five-game losing streak — as a prime example.

“We were facing a gauntlet of four of our last six games on the road, so I’m proud of our guys to finish strong the way they did,” Ganot said. “We had practiced well going in, but we had lost five in a row and had lost our way a bit, so to have a five-game losing streak and and then go into our toughest stretch … It was certainly a tough task, but I thought our guys prepared well and gave ourselves a chance.”

After Saturday’s victory at Cal State Fullerton, the team stayed put rather than return to the islands, and Ganot said he is confident in the Warriors’ ability to play well away from Hawai’i.

“We try to get ahead of it and not succumb to it,” Ganot said. “We travel well, a lot of our guys are from Southern California so we usually have a good turnout here. To be tough in this league, you have to win on the road. And it’s a nice little bump to get that extra day (without air travel).”

No. 6 Hawai’i (17-12, 8-8 Big West) vs. No. 3 UC Irvine (16-16, 11-5 Big West)
Thursday, March 8, 6:00 p.m. PT/4:00 p.m. HT
Where: The Honda Center (18,336) – Anaheim, Calif.
Television: Fox Prime Ticket (Delayed at approximately 8:30 p.m. HT).
Streaming Video: FoxSportsGo/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: StatBroadcast.com

1 Comment

  1. Three Wins …in… Three Days…= NCAA’s !!
    Go Rainbow Warriors !

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