Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Warriors take win streak on the road at UC San Diego on Thursday

When the University of Hawai’i basketball team plays a road game at UC San Diego on Thursday, it will officially count as a Big West Conference regular-season game. However, per NCAA transitional rules, UCSD will still not be allowed to participate in the Big West Conference Championship Tournament in March.

Confusing? Perhaps. For the Rainbow Warriors, who are in the very-early lead pack for the BWC regular-season championship, the bottom line is that every game matters.

The Rainbow Warriors are 11-3 overall, 2-0 in the BWC, and on a six-game winning streak. The Tritons are 6-8 overall and 1-1 in the BWC.

Thursday’s game is scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m. Pacific Time (5:00 p.m. Hawai’i) at LionTree Arena in La Jolla, Calif. It will be televised/streamed through ESPN+, with radio coverage available via ESPN Honolulu.

UCSD opened BWC play with an 85-83 upset road win at Long Beach State, but then got blown out at UC Santa Barbara, 82-61.

For Hawai’i, this is the first true road game of the season. The Warriors played UNLV at a neutral site in Henderson, Nevada, in early December.

The Tritons are in year three of a mandatory four-year transition period from NCAA Division II to NCAA-I. They will become eligible for the Big West Tournament (and NCAA Tournament) following the 2024-25 season.

Hawai’i defeated UCSD twice last season, but the games did not count in the official standings. For what it’s worth, the Warriors would have been the No. 2 seed (instead of No. 3) for the Big West Tournament if those two wins counted.

The Warriors are having their best start in seven years thanks mostly to an elite defense that is limiting opponents to 59.7 points per game. Only two opponents – UNLV (77) and Pepperdine (70) – have reached the 70-point mark against Hawai’i this season.

Hawai’i head coach Eran Ganot has used the same starting lineup for all 14 games this season: Noel Coleman and JoVon McClanahan at guards, Samuta Avea and Kamaka Hepa at forwards, and Bernardo da Silva at center.

Not surprisingly, those are the top five statistical players for the Warriors. Coleman has been in a recent shooting slump (4 for 26 from 3-point range in his last seven games), but continues to lead th team in scoring at 13.9 points per game.

Hepa is averaging 11.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, and leads the team in both 3-pointers (27) and blocked shots (17). Avea (9.6 points, 3.8 rebounds), da Silva (9.1 points, 6.6 rebounds) and McClanahan (9.1 points, 2.6 assists) have each raised their respective numbers in recent weeks.

UCSD has battled roster issues recently due to injuries and illness. In their last game at UC Santa Barbara, the Tritons had only eight healthy players available.

UCSD’s top player is Bryce Pope, a 6-foot-3 junior guard who is the third leading scorer in the BWC at 19.2 points per game, and leads the conference with 32 3-pointers. He sat out the loss at UCSB due to illness.

True freshman Roddie Anderson III, a 6-2 point guard, has become an immediate contributor for UCSD. He is averaging 9.6 points and 3.7 assists per game.

The Tritons have some size in the post, led by 7-foot junior Emmanuel Tshimanga, who is averaging 8.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. He had 18 points and six boards in the loss at UC Santa Barbara. Francis Nwaokorie, a 6-7, 220-pound sophomore, is contributing 9.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.

Both teams are led by successful veteran coaches. Ganot has a career record of 125-80 in his eighth season at UH; Eric Olen has a career record of 185-90 in his 10th season at UCSD.

The Tritons are 3-2 at home this season, but two of those victories came against lower-division teams. UCSD is averaging only 1,599 fans per home game this season.

Side note: Tim Rapp, father of Hawai’i junior guard Ryan Rapp, is a member of the UC San Diego Athletic Hall of Fame. Tim Rapp is considered one of the best basketball players in UCSD history, and was a NCAA Division III All-American in 1991, when he averaged 24.4 points per game.

HAWAI’I (11-3, 2-0 Big West) vs. UC SAN DIEGO (6-8, 1-1 Big West)
Thursday, January 4, 7:00 p.m. Pacific Time (5:00 p.m. Hawai’i)
Where: LionTree Arena, La Jolla, Calif.
TV/Video streaming: ESPN+
Radio/Audio streaming: ESPN Honolulu (92.7 FM, 1420 AM, espnhonolulu.com, Sideline Hawaii app)

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