Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Warriors face Big West leader UC Irvine

For the first time in three weeks, the University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team enters a Big West Conference series on the “up” slope vs. on the “down” slope, and the Warriors want to start a streak of a different kind.

The challenge won’t be easy, as UH (4-4 overall, 2-4 Big West) plays host to conference leader UC Irvine (8-4, 4-0) at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center. The games will be broadcast live on statewide TV by Spectrum Sports (Channel 12) and via radio on ESPN1420 AM. They also will be streamed live on BigWest.tv for Spectrum subscribers and those outside of Hawai’i.

The Warriors are coming off perhaps their best overall performance of the season, a 76-53 victory at Cal State Fullerton which snapped a four-game losing streak. 

“I think we can definitely build off the last game, (gain) momentum,” said junor post Mate Colina, who contributed five points and a career-high 11 rebounds. “There was a great feeling, we all connected, it was fun playing and it was fun to watch back (on video). So the biggest thing is just trying to emulate it this week, doing the same thing. I still don’t think it was by far our best, and so hopefully this week we can keep getting better.”

UC Irvine presents a literally big challenge starting with veteran post players Collin Welp (6 feet 9) and Brad Greene (6-11), who have hurt Hawai’i in past seasons. Welp, a first-team All-Big West selection last year, is averaging 12.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Greene averages 10.1 ppg and 6.9 boards per outing. Overall, the Anteaters lead the Big West and entered the week ranked No. 5 in the nation in rebounding margin (plus-11). 

“It definitely starts with the bigs, and it’s really exciting this week because it’s going to be a big game,” said Colina, who is 6-11. “Hopefully this year we can do what they did to us at their home, win the rebounds, and hopefully that can lead to a win on the score line as well.”  

Colina and senior transfer James Jean-Marie have had to shoulder most of the workload under the basket this season, with sophomore post Bernardo da Silva sidelined with nagging injuries. Warriors coach Eran Ganot does not expect to have da Silva available this weekend.

“Hopefully we’ll have more clarification, but I don’t see him (playing) much in the near future,” Ganot said. “I know he’s been battling through some things. Going back to the pivot, that’s another one — Manel (Ayol) transferred, Samuta (Avea) opted out, Bernardo really hasn’t been with us at all, he hasn’t played minutes, and he’s one of our experienced guys. So that’s the nature of the year and something you’re growing immune to, almost. It’s ‘Who do we have? Who do we play? And let’s go.’ And we’ll adjust accordingly.”

Colina, who played sparingly his first two seasons in Manoa, has so far adjusted well to his increased role, averaging 7.3 points and six rebounds off the bench.

“Every year, whatever my role is, that’s what I’m going to do,” Colina said. “This year, it’s just keep battling down low, trying to get rebounds, setting good screens, and in the post try not to let the guy score.”

Ganot said the additional floor time has given Colina valuable experience and a better feel on the court overall.

“He’s playing more, and he’s having breakthroughs, and I think that’s what happens — there’s a number of guys on our team who are good players and have breakthroughs, and it makes them hungrier and they continue to build on that,” Ganot said. “His comfort level is higher, he’s had more success this year.”

Colina said he’s taken the experience he has gained and tries to constantly build on it.

“I think playing more minutes this year than I have in the past two years, it’s definitely helped with more experience,” Colina said. “I think that’s been the biggest thing. And after every game, I analyze with the coaches, what could I have done better in that game. The main thing is trying to get the other guys open.”

Ganot said in order for UH to compete on the glass against UC Irvine, it will take a team effort and consistent display of aggressiveness like the one shown last Saturday.

“It sets the right tone, I think sometimes you measure that grit, resolve, toughness and defense, rebounding, 50/50 balls — we were pretty good in all (those) areas,” Ganot said. “But our whole team is everybody, everybody shares and everybody’s got each other’s back. We do say like, turnovers starts with our guards, but it’s everybody. Rebounding starts with our bigs, but it’s everybody. It’s not just blocking out, it’s a combination of blocking out, grabbing balls with two hands, securing balls …”

Colina said last Saturday’s victory was crucial in turning around this season’s momentum.

“Coming into that game, we could have definitely lost another game, the season would have been very down,” Colina said. “But the boys rallied together and pulled back. I think it showed good character as well, considering we’re such a new group but we found a way to jell so quickly overnight and we found a way to perform the next day.”

Ganot said the season’s slow start — no games in November and only two in December, both against Division II opponents — caused a delay in the team coming together. But he said he sees it happening now, and takes pleasure in seeing that growth.

“This is a journey, it’s a long journey, and this time of the year, end of January, (normally) we’d be 70 percent of the way done,” Ganot said. “But because of the way the season started, we’re basically only a third of the way done. And the adversity that we’re going through, the ups and downs, that’s living. And living is fun. It can be painful at times, but it makes certain moments and seeing people grow and come together and compete … that is always fun. I think it’s why you do what you do.”

Ganot said another thing he takes pleasure in is his role with “Coaches vs. Cancer,” a national campaign aiming to bring awareness to the disease and raise money toward cancer research. This weekend’s games are designated as a “Suits and Sneakers” initiative, in which coaches (including assistants) across the country will be wearing sneakers during the game as a show of solidarity and unified support.

“We’ll wear sneakers with our aloha attire, (and) this year they’re also giving us ‘Coaches vs. Cancer’ masks to wear,” said Ganot, who serves on the national council for Coaches vs. Cancer. “So it’s always No. 1, raising awareness for an unbelievable cause, and obviously raising money for an unbelievable cause, and there’s nothing better than being part of a team and representing the ‘H,’ Coaches vs. Cancer and the American Cancer Society. I’m looking forward to it, and looking forward to a great awareness for an unbelievable cause.” 

HAWAI’I (4-4, 2-4 Big West) vs. UC IRVINE (8-4, 4-0 Big West)
When: Friday, Jan. 29 (7:00 p.m. HT) & Saturday, Jan. 30 (7:00 p.m. HT)
Where: SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center – Honolulu, HI
Television: 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 Honolulu (1420 AM/92.7 FM), KRKH (Maui), KPUA (Hawai’i Island), and KTOH (Kaua’i).
Audio Webcast: ESPNHonolulu.com/Sideline Hawai’i App.
Live Stats: HawaiiAthletics.com

This week’s games
Friday, January 29
UC Santa Barbara at UC Davis
CSUN at Cal Poly
*UC San Diego at Long Beach State
Cal State Fullerton at CSU Bakersfield
UC Irvine at Hawai’i

Saturday, January 30
UC Santa Barbara at UC Davis
CSUN at Cal Poly
*UC San Diego at Long Beach State
Cal State Fullerton at CSU Bakersfield
UC Irvine at Hawai’i

*Non-conference game

Leave a Response

Login or fill in the fields below to comment. (New user? Register)