Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Warriors host UC Davis in Big West opener on Thursday

The post-Christmas week is all about getting ready for the New Year. That’s the situation for the University of Hawai’i basketball team as it puts the historic showing in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic aside to focus on the Big West Conference regular season.

Photo courtesy Chris Kadooka

The Rainbow Warriors will host UC Davis in the Big West opener for both teams on Thursday. The game is scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m. at SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center. It will be televised in Hawai’i on Spectrum Sports, and broadcast on radio via ESPN Honolulu.

Hawai’i is trending up at 9-3 following three victories in four days to capture its first Diamond Head Classic championship. JoVon McClanahan’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer to win it is still getting social media buzz four days later.

UCD is trending down at 7-5, including a 1-3 record in the month of December. The Aggies’ only win this month came against NCAA-II team Holy Names University (107-55). Their losses this month were at home against Pacific (74-72), and on the road at Eastern Washington (79-68) and at No. 13 UCLA (81-54).

The Warriors’ 9-3 record represents one of their best non-conference starts to a season in recent memory. The last UH team with a better mark was the 2015-16 team that entered Big West action with an 11-2 record, and went on to win the conference title.

Head coach Eran Ganot has relied on the same starting lineup for all 12 games so far this season: McClanahan and Noel Coleman at guards, Samuta Avea and Kamaka Hepa at forwards, and Bernardo da Silva at center.

Coleman leads the team in scoring at 14.7 points per game and has reached double-figure points in nine of 12 games this season.

Photo courtesy Matt Osumi

Hepa is averaging 11.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. He had 16 points and nine rebounds in a UH loss at UC Davis last season (the UH vs. UCD game in Honolulu was canceled last season due to COVID-19 precautions).

Avea is contributing 9.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, and da Silva is at 9.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. McClanahan is at 7.8 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game, and riding a wave of confidence after being named Most Outstanding Player of the Diamond Head Classic.

The Warriors’ key to success this season has been on defense. In the current NCAA-I statistics for defense, Hawai’i ranks second for 3-pointers allowed (52), 16th for 3-point percentage allowed (.274) and 19th for points per game allowed (60.2).

In contrast, UCD is the top scoring offense among Big West teams, averaging 78.1 points per game. The Aggies also have one of the early candidates for BWC Player of the Year in 6-foot-4 junior guard Elijah Pepper. He currently leads UCD in four major categories – scoring (19.7 per game), rebounding (6.2), assists (3.2) and 3-pointers made (24).

He gets a lot of help from his teammates. Ty Johnson, a 6-3 sophomore guard, is averaging 16.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. He is a transfer from Loyola Chicago. Robby Beasley III, a 6-3 transfer from Montana, is added 10.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.

Christian Anigwe, a 6-9 senior, is UCD’s best post player, averaging 11.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. He also leads the Big West with 20 blocked shots.

Both teams have successful veteran head coaches. UH’s Eran Ganot is in his eighth season, and has never had a losing record in the Big West regular season. UCD’s Jim Les is in his 12th season with the Aggies. He led UCD to the Big West regular-season championship in 2015 and 2018.

Hawai’i has an all-time record of 12-8 against UCD, including 6-2 in games played in the Stan Sheriff Center.

It is worth noting that every Big West team will play 20 regular-season games this season, with contests against UC San Diego counting toward the league standings (in two previous seasons, games against UCSD did not count). Barring any cancellations, the 20 conference games would be a program record for Hawai’i.

HAWAI’I (9-3) vs. UC DAVIS (7-5)
Thursday, December 29, 7:00 p.m.
Where: SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center
Tickets: Etickethawaii.com
TV: Spectrum Sports (channels 12/1012 in Hawai’i)
Video streaming: ESPN+ (blacked out in Hawai’i)
Radio: ESPN Honolulu (92.7 FM, 1420 AM, espnhonolulu.com, Sideline Hawaii app)

Big West Conference
Thursday’s Schedule
CSU Bakersfield at UC Riverside
UC Santa Barbara at Cal State Fullerton
CSUN at Cal Poly
UC San Diego at Long Beach State
UC Davis at Hawai’i

Saturday’s Schedule
UC Irvine at CSU Bakersfield
UC Riverside at Long Beach State
CSUN at Cal State Fullerton
UC San Diego at UC Santa Barbara
Cal Poly at Hawai’i

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