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Warriors look to remain in contention at UC Santa Barbara on Thursday

Will the real contenders please stand up?

With only three weeks remaining in the regular season of the Big West Conference, every game makes an impact on the standings. Thursday will be no exception for the University of Hawai’i, which will play at UC Santa Barbara in a key battle for conference positioning.

The Rainbow Warriors are 16-9 overall and in third place in the Big West at 7-4. The Gauchos are 17-8 overall and in fifth place at 6-5.

Thursday’s game is scheduled to start at 8:00 p.m. Pacific Time in the Thunderdome in Santa Barbara, Calif., (6:00 p.m. Hawai’i time) and will be televised nationally on ESPNU.

As recently as two weeks ago, UCSB was considered a legitimate contender for the regular-season championship, particularly after a convincing 75-54 win at Hawai’i on Feb. 2. But the Gauchos are now on a three-game losing streak and battling to get back near the top of the standings.

The Warriors are coming off two convincing wins at home – a 21-point win over Cal Poly, then a 23-point romp over UC Riverside. Led by junior guard Eddie Stansberry and senior forward Jack Purchase, Hawai’i is now the top 3-point shooting team in the Big West.

Although the Warriors rank just fifth in the conference in points per game (72.6), they are first in 3-pointers made per game (8.9) and second in 3-point percentage (.363).

Stansberry ranks third in the Big West with 66 3-pointers, and Purchase is fourth in the conference with 63 3-pointers.

Purchase leads the balanced Hawai’i offense with 11.8 points per game, and is also grabbing 6.0 rebounds per game. Stansberry is averaging 11.4 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.

Junior forward Zigmars Raimo is contributing 11.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per game and is shooting 54.4 percent from the field. Senior guard Brocke Stepteau is averaging 9.7 points per game, and is shooting 42.6 percent from 3-point range and 86.7 percent on free throws.

Sophomore point guard Drew Buggs has emerged as a key contributor on both ends of the court for the Warriors. He leads the Big West in assists (5.8 per game), and is also averaging 8.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.

However, UCSB stymied the Warriors on Feb. 2. Hawai’i made a season-low five 3-pointers in the loss to the Gauchos, and shot just 5 for 22 (22.7 percent) from 3-point range.

UCSB boasts a starting lineup with all five players averaging double-figure points. Ar’mond Davis, a 6-6 senior guard/forward, leads the way with 13.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Amadou Sow, a 6-9 freshman forward, is averaging 11.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, and is shooting 57.1 percent from the field. He had 20 points and 11 rebounds in the win at Hawai’i on Feb. 2.

Devearl Ramsey, a 6-foot sophomore, is averaging 10.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. Max Heidegger, a 6-3 junior, is averaging 10.6 points and 3.1 assists per game, and is considered UCSB’s top 3-piont threat even though he has struggled with his shooting this season. He scored 20 in the win at Hawai’i.

JaQuori McLaughlin, a 6-4 sophomore, is contributing 10.4 points and 3.0 assists per game. The Gauchos essentially start four guards around the 6-9 Sow in the middle, but they do have size that comes in off the bench. Jarriesse Blackmon (6-7 senior), Jay Nagle (6-8 freshman), Robinson Idehen (6-10 sophomore) all get double-digit minutes in the rotation.

UCSB is 10-2 at home this season, with both home losses coming in conference (UC Irvine and UC Davis).

Since joining the Big West Conference in the 2012-13 season, Hawai’i has a 7-7 record against UCSB, including 2-4 in games played in Santa Barbara.

HAWAI’I (16-9, 7-4 Big West) at UC SANTA BARBARA (17-8, 6-5 Big West)
When: Thursday, Feb. 21, 8:00 p.m. PT (6:00 p.m. HT)
Where: The Thunderdome (6,000) – Santa Barbara, Calif.
Television: ESPNU
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com/WatchESPN app.
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: UCSBGauchos.com

Wednesday’s Result
at Long Beach State 80, CSUN 78

Thursday’s Games
Cal Poly at UC Irvine
UC Davis at Cal State Fullerton
Hawai’i at UC Santa Barbara

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


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