Hawaii has dropped five straight games on the mainland going back to last season.
Fortunately for the Rainbow Warriors, playing at the Matadome of Cal State Northridge has worked as a cure-all for road ailments the last three years. They last lost at the 1,600-seat crackerbox gym in 2014.
UH (9-5, 0-1 BWC) and CSUN (3-11, 0-0) meet at 5 p.m. HST in an ESPN3-broadcast game. The Rainbow Warriors are 7.5-point favorites coming off their eight-point loss at Long Beach State on Thursday.
CSUN’s most notable player of the past couple years, Kendall Smith, is off plying his trade at Oklahoma State as a graduate transfer. That’s left Terrell Gomez, a 5-foot-8 freshman, to learn on the fly as the freshman starting point guard (10.7 ppg, 3.1 apg). It’s typified the season of the Matadors, who are exceptionally young and trying to get experience for what they hope are better things to come. They have a possible future star, Kobe Paras, cooling his heels on the bench as a redshirting transfer from Creighton.
In the meantime, Tavrion Dawson, Micheal “Don’t Tell Me How to Spell My First name” Warren, and Reggie Theus Jr. have tried to guide their younger teammates. CSUN won two straight, over non-D-I San Diego Christian followed by Morgan State of the MEAC, to conclude nonconference play after enduring an 11-game losing streak.
For UH, Brocke Stepteau scored a career-high 19 at LBSU and brought his shooting percentages to 60.0 from the field, 50.0 from 3 and 80.0 at the line. Pretty amazing stuff from the guy who’s become the team’s most reliable player (although he had five turnovers at the Pyramid).
With some tester games coming up during the ensuing four-game stand at the Stan Sheriff Center — UC Santa Barbara, UC Davis, CS Fullerton — it certainly behooves UH to get a split on this trip by winning a fourth straight at the M-Dome.