Is this the breakthrough year for Hawaii at Long Beach State?
With UH (9-4, 0-1 away) tabbed a slight favorite today (1.5 points), perhaps it could be. LBSU (6-10, 3-2 home) was remade significantly from last season, when it went 2-1 against UH (including back-to-back wins in the regular-season finale and the BWC tournament first round). The guard trio of Justin Bibbins, Evan Payne and Noah Blackwell is gone.
But the bruising beach frontcourt should come across as very familiar. Temidayo Yussuf (265 pounds), Gabe Levin (230) and Mason Riggins (230) aren’t afraid to throw their weight around, and certainly outplayed their UH counterparts in the most important game last year. (Levin was out injured for the 2017 Big West season but is back and is LBSU’s leading scorer (15.0) and rebounder (7.2.)
Expect UH to come out with the same dual point guard look that it used in the nonconference finale against Howard. Drew Buggs and Brocke Stepteau have both played well of late. You’d hope that a less pressure-packed situation, coming off the bench, will help Leland Green rediscover his shooting touch (6.9 ppg, 35.4 percent FGs).
Jack Purchase is brimming with confidence coming off his 22-point, six-3-pointer effort against Howard. Let’s see if he can bring it off the bench for a second straight game.
Tipoff is at 5 p.m. HST on ESPN3 streaming, and of course Bobby Curran will be on the radio call on 1420-AM.
UH lost 84-75 at The Pyramid last year, despite 21 points and seven rebounds from Noah Allen. Purchase went down with a first-half ankle injury and didn’t return; the injury lingered into the BW tournament, though he played sparingly in that loss.
Here’s UH’s road record at the eight opposing Big West schools in five years to date as a conference member:
>> Cal State Fullerton: 4-1
>> Cal State Northridge: 3-2
>> Cal Poly: 3-2
>> Long Beach State: 0-5
>> UC Davis: 2-3
>> UC Irvine: 2-3
>> UC Riverside: 4-1
>> UC Santa Barbara: 2-3
Meanwhile, the UH women’s hoops team opens its Big West schedule at the same time, at Cal State Fullerton. Check out Big West TV streaming to watch that simultaneously.