Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Warriors look to rebound against Long Beach State

The University of Hawai’i basketball team will look to rebound from a road loss last week with a home game this Saturday against the top-rebounding team in the league.

The Rainbow Warriors host Long Beach State in a Big West Conference game this Saturday at SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center. It will be televised in Hawai’i on Spectrum Sports, with radio coverage on ESPN Honolulu. Hawai’i is 12-4 overall and 3-1 in the conference; the Beach is 8-9 overall and 2-3 in the BWC.

The Warriors lost at Cal State Fullerton, 79-72 in overtime, last Saturday, and had a week to recover and prepare for this Saturday’s home game. The Beach beat Cal Poly, 77-58, at home on Thursday night, and traveled to Honolulu on Friday.

“There’s a lot of season left in the 20-game schedule,” Hawai’i head coach Eran Ganot said. ”Last year, we talked about Long Beach losing their first game at home, and then winning 10 in a row. So there’s a long way to go. This is a very physical league, it’s a grind. Each game is like a bit of a championship game … you’re fighting for seeding, fighting for momentum going into the conference tournament. It’s incredible, these are battles, how awesome is that? But they’re not going to be easy, and they’re gonna get harder with each game.”

The Beach has been inconsistent overall so far this season, never winning more than two games in a row. Where it has been consistently strong is on the boards.

The Beach is tied for sixth in NCAA-I for rebounding at 40.7 per game. The effort is led by the unique duo of Lassina Traore and Aboubacar Traore. They are both from Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (formerly known as Ivory Coast), but are not related.

Lassina, a 6-foot-10 sophomore transfer from Saint Louis, leads the BWC with 9.4 rebounds per game and is also scoring 11.1 points per game. He has seven double-doubles this season.

Aboubacar, a 6-5 sophomore, is second in the BWC in rebounding at 8.5 rebounds per game and is also scoring 9.4 points per game. He has six double-doubles this season.

Those two could be the main focus if the Beach continues without two key starters. Leading scorers Joel Murray and Marcus Tsohonis sat out LBSU’s last game due to injuries. Murray, a 6-foot senior guard who was a first-team All-Big West selection last season, is averaging 15.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. Tsohonis, a 6-3 junior transfer from VCU, is averaging 12.1 points per game.

With or without Murray and Tsohonis, the Beach likes to push the pace with 75.2 points per game. In contrast, the Warriors are more deliberate and defensive.

“The games are battles, and we’ve been on both ends of it — up late, down late, there’s so much time,” Ganot said. “Long Beach is plus-five, six on the boards, and this is going to be a very physical week. They force 15 turnovers a game, which is significant when we just had 22 (at Cal State Fullerton) … At the end of the day, it’s going to be a great and awesome challenge that we’re going to have to handle very well.” 

Hawai’i ranks 18th in NCAA-I for scoring defense at 60.2 points per game. Even more impressive, the Warriors have allowed the fewest 3-pointers (64) among all NCAA-I teams, and rank fourth for 3-point percentage defense (.269).

The Warriors have been relying on the same starting lineup throughout the season: Noel Coleman and JoVon McClanahan at guards, Samuta Avea and Kamaka Hepa at forwards, and Bernardo da Silva.

Coleman leads the Warriors in scoring at 13.9 points per game. The 6-10 Hepa (10.9 points, 6.6 rebounds per game) and 6-9 da Silva (10.4 points, 6.7 rebounds per game) will be matched up against the Beach’s Traore tandem.

“I’m not exactly sure what it is — I have played them twice already last year, and they were both really competitive games,” Hepa said. “But all I know is I’m really looking forward to it. It’s just a different kind of energy around the game, especially (them) having to come here. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun to just really … not necessarily re-establish ourselves, but just to get back in the flow of things.”

Avea and McClanahan are both averaging 9.4 points per game, with McClanahan leading the team in assists at 3.0 per game. The starting five accounts for 79.1 percent of the scoring for the Warriors.

Sophomores Justus Jackson (3.3 points per game) and Beon Riley (5.0 points, 3.8 rebounds per game) are usually the first players off the bench for Hawai’i.

Beach head coach Dan Monson is the dean of BWC basketball coaches, in his 16th season at LBSU and 26th overall as a NCAA head coach. He has led the Beach to four BWC regular-season titles during his tenure.

Ganot is in his eighth season as head coach at Hawai’i. He has an all-time record of 8-9 against Monson’s LBSU teams. Hawai’i and the Beach are 3-3 against each other since 2020, with all six games decided by single-digit margins.

HAWAI’I (12-4, 3-1) at LONG BEACH STATE (8-9, 2-3)
When: Saturday, January 14, 7:00 p.m. Hawai’i Time
Where: SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center, Honolulu, HI
Tickets: eTicketHawaii.com
TV: Spectrum Sports (channels 12/1012 in Hawai’i)
Video streaming: ESPN+ (blacked out in Hawai’i)
Radio/audio streaming: ESPN Honolulu (92.7 FM, 1420 AM, espnhonolulu.com, Sideline Hawaii app)

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

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