Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Warriors ready to hit road and start Big West Round 2

The University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team’s first run through the Big West Conference helped the Warriors learn as much about themselves as it did the other 10 teams.

Now UH (16-6 overall, 7-3 Big West) hopes to put that knowledge to work, starting with Thursday’s first rematch at UC Davis (13-9, 6-4). The game is scheduled to start at 6:00 p.m. Pacific Time (4:00 p.m. Hawai’i) at University Credit Union Center in Davis, Calif. It will video streamed live via ESPN+.

The Warriors won the first meeting back on Dec. 29 in the league opener in SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center, 74-66.

“We expect it to be a physical game, because it’s the second time seeing UC Davis, and we know each other better and we think it’s going to be a battle,” said junior center Bernardo da Silva. “We’re pretty much ready for that.”

Hawai’i is coming off a two-game homestand split with a heartbreaking 65-64 loss to UC Santa Barbara last Thursday followed by a closer-than-expected 72-69 victory against Cal State Bakersfield on Saturday. In both games, the Warriors played one strong half and one weak one, something they know will not suffice going forward.

After examining the film from Saturday’s game, UH coach Eran Ganot said one thing he noticed during a 16-2 second-half run by Bakersfield was how a missed shot by the Warriors often led to a poor defensive effort at the other end.

“We had some wide open shots from some of our best shooters that just didn’t go in, and that’s playing right, (but) we can’t let that affect us on the other end,” Ganot said. “Usually we let it affect us on the offensive end, where we’ve been hesitant. We can’t be hesitant — we’re good, we got good players, keep shooting, keep playing right. (This was) the first time we let it affect us defensively. Even the first five minutes set the tone, we had an undisciplined defensive possession, followed by an undisciplined turnover, and then they got us in transition and built some momentum with that.

“I’m pleased with they way we separated again (later), (but) we gotta defend without fouling. Some of that we gotta look at, (but) we gotta do better. So that’s where it’s at. I think you get exposed, especially in league play, if you don’t bring it on every possession. It’s a 40-minute game, for both teams. I love that about our league, that there’s a lot of competitive dudes, and there’s a lot of terrific coaches that have a lot of practice. Possession by possession, we gotta continue to play right.”

For da Silva’s part, he said consistency is indeed a priority.

“I mean, just staying consistent and staying aggressive,” da Silva said. “I’ve been trying to put two halves together and play good for the entire 40 minutes … but I just gotta keep pushing and keep trying my best.”

Ganot said he expects an improved UC Davis team compared to the one Hawai’i defeated at home five weeks ago.

The Aggies’ feature player is Elijah Pepper, a 6-foot-4 junior guard who leads the BWC in scoring at 20.0 points per game. He also leads UC Davis in rebounding (6.0) and assists (3.8), and is the only player in the conference leading his team in all three of those categories.

“I think they had a great stretch since our game,” Ganot said. “There was a battle here, and they’ve always been competitive, we’ve had battles over the years. Their freshman guard (Sione Lose) has continued to gain confidence, so like I’m saying with our guys, their young guys are getting better. Pepper has even gone to another level as clearly a first-team all-conference scorer, leading the league in scoring. (Christian) Anigwe is playing well, gives them the inside-out and attack. And so some of those younger guys for them, to be honest, are gaining a lot more confidence. And that’s what happens, like we’re tell our freshmen, ‘Hey, it’s February, you guys are sophomores now.’ And the freshmen who can think that way, make their team that much better.”

Ty Johnson, a 6-3 sophomore, is adding 16.0 points per game, giving UCD the highest-scoring backcourt in the Big West. Christian Anigwe, a 6-9 senior, is averaging 12.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, but he sat out UCD’s last game with an injury. Anigwe had 23 points and eight rebounds in the loss to Hawai’i in December.

In the Warriors’ three Big West losses so far, they came up a single point short against UCSB, had an overtime loss at Cal State Fullerton and suffered a 76-68 defeat at UC Irvine. But despite UH being only a few possessions away from being 9-1 or even 10-0, da Silva said there was value coming from those losses.

“We did lose three games, (but) I wouldn’t want to take to those games back, because we learned from it,” da Silva said. “So I think it’s going to help us every game through (going forward).”

Point guard JoVon McClanahan scored a career-high 23 points in the previous win over UC Davis, and is averaging 10.7 points per game for the season.

Noel Coleman leads the Warriors in scoring with 13.7 per game, followed by Kamaka Hepa (10.9), da Silva (10.4) and Samuta Avea (9.7).

Da Silva, who leads Hawai’i in rebounding with 7.0 per game, recorded a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds in the previous win over the Aggies.

Ganot said the Warriors are “not far off” from where they had planned to be at the midway point of the conference season, but there certainly is room for improvement.

“We have our goals, and certainly we’d like to be further ahead, as a competitor,” Ganot said. “Did I think we’d have some of the challenges and adversity we’ve had, when we talked before the year in terms of some of the health? No, but that’s part of the deal, too. So, all in all, I feel pretty pleased with where we’re at now compared to where we were at in the start of the year, especially with some of that adversity, while at the same time wanting more. And that’s what you want with our guys, with our staff, with our program. 

“We’ve shown a capability to be really good defensively, but in three of the last four games, we’ve been inconsistent. We’ve seen flashes on offense, but that needs to break through even more. The rebounding overall has been solid. But obviously in this next stretch, we have to be even better to do what we want.”

HAWAI’I (16-6 overall, 7-3 Big West) at UC Davis (13-9, 6-4)
Thursday, February 2, 6:00 p.m. Pacific Time (4:00 p.m. Hawai’i)
Where: University Credit Union Center, Davis, Calif.
TV/video streaming: ESPN+
Radio/audio streaming: ESPN Honolulu (92.7 FM, 1420 AM, espnhonolulu.com, Sideline Hawaii app)

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

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

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