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Warriors host Cal State Fullerton in Big West opener on Wednesday

It would be easy for the University of Hawai’i basketball team to assume the role of clear favorite in its Big West Conference regular-season opener against Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday.

After all, the Rainbow Warriors are 9-5 against non-conference opponents and rated No. 151 in the latest NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET), while the Titans are 4-10 and rated No. 234. Add in that Hawai’i is 8-2 in the Stan Sheriff Center this season and CSUF is 0-7 on the road, and this would seem like an easy win for the Warriors.

If only it could be that simple.

Despite their non-conference record, the Titans can still be considered a conference contender this season. They are the defending Big West Conference Tournament champion, and represented the Big West in last season’s NCAA Tournament. They went 1-1 against Hawai’i last season, and return their top four scorers.

The Warriors are also considered a contender, and ended the non-conference schedule with three consecutive wins. They have not played since a 71-63 win over Alabama A&M on December 29, which means they had 10 days to prepare for this conference opener.

The Warriors are on pace to break school records for 3-pointers made and attempted in a season. Leading the way is junior guard Eddie Stansberry, who is averaging 13.2 points per game and ranks second in the Big West with 43 3-pointers.

Junior forward Zigmars Raimo is averaging 11.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, and is shooting 57 percent from the field. Senior forward Jack Purchase is averaging 10.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game and ranks second on the team with 32 3-pointers.

The point guard tandem of senior Brocke Stepteau and sophomore Drew Buggs has also been effective. Stepteau is averaging 10.4 points and 2.9 assists per game, and has 17 3-pointers; Buggs is averaging 9.0 points, 5.0 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game.

The Titans do not have as much size in the post (6-10 junior Amel Kuljuhovic is the team’s tallest player but he is a reserve who averages 2.7 points and 2.6 rebounds per game).

They mostly rely on the four returning starters from last season – guards Kyle Allman Jr., Khalil Ahmad and Austen Awosika, and forward Jackson Rowe.

Allman, a 6-4 senior, is averaging 18.5 points and 3.3 rebounds per game and has 27 3-pointers. In January of last year, Allman scored 40 points on 16-of-19 shooting in Fullerton’s 69-66 win over Hawai’i in the Sheriff Center.

Ahmad, a 6-3 senior, is averaging 18.2 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, and has 29 3-pointers. Awosika, a 6-3 junior, is contributing 7.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. Rowe, a 6-7 junior, is averaging 10.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, and is shooting 57.4 percent from the field.

It is also worth noting that Fullerton’s strength of non-conference schedule is rated among the top 15 in the nation by several outlets. Most notable, the Titans have lost to Arizona State, Central Florida, Nebraska, Washington, Saint Mary’s, San Francisco and Wake Forest.

Since joining the Big West in the 2012-13 season, Hawai’i has an 11-2 record against Fullerton, including 5-1 in the Sheriff Center.

HAWAI’I (9-5, 0-0 Big West) vs. CAL STATE FULLERTON (4-10, 0-0 Big West)
When:
Wednesday, Jan. 9, 7:00 p.m. HT
Where: Stan Sheriff Center (10,300) – Honolulu, HI
Television: Live on Spectrum Sports – Channels 12 (SD) and 1012 (HD).
Streaming Video: BigWest.TV (Must be a Spectrum cable subscriber to stream in Hawai’i).
Radio: Live on 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 – $18 or $20 for adults, $16 or $18 for senior citizens (ages 65 and older), $5 or $7 for students (ages 4 through high school). Upper level prices vary by section. UH Manoa students free with validated ID. Parking is $6.

Big West Conference
Wednesday’s Games

CSUN at UC Riverside
Cal Poly at UC Santa Barbara
Cal State Fullerton at Hawai’i

Thursday’s Games
UC Davis at UC Irvine

Saturday’s Games
UC Davis at Long Beach State
UC Irvine at Cal State Fullerton
CSUN at Cal Poly
UC Riverside at UC Santa Barbara

1 Comment

  1. You can’t be undefeated if you don’t win the first one! Lets Go Bows!

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