First off, you’ve probably heard the news about former Hawaii coach Riley Wallace, who was hospitalized Wednesday on Maui after suffering an apparent minor stroke.
That’s a dour way to start off game night vs. Pittsburgh on the Valley Isle, but by all accounts Riley is in good spirits and is being held overnight as just a precaution. Still, he won’t be making it out to War Memorial Gymnasium to watch his former protege Jamie Dixon like he wanted.
As for the game itself, knocking off the Panthers (headed up by former UH assistant Dixon) will be a tall task — even without two of Pitt’s prime players in action. Forward Durand Johnson is suspended for the season. Guard Cameron Wright is still recovering from a broken foot.
UH is expected to be attacked first and foremost in the frontcourt. Michael Young, a 6-9 forward, is Pitt’s leading scorer at 13.5 ppg. He’s a large, physical player.
Coach Benjy Taylor decided to eschew a team practice in favor of rest Thursday night upon arriving in Maui. The team did a regular morning shootaround in War Memorial. It will be interesting to see if they look rusty at all.
There might be a few hopefuls expecting UH to pull the upset over a powerhouse from the Atlantic Coast Conference. It will take a solid shooting night from Garrett Nevels, another stingy defensive effort by Roderick Bobbitt and a non-dud by Negus Webster-Chan. UH bigs Mike Thomas and Stefan Jovanovic, like always, will have to try to stay out of foul trouble. Aaron Valdes won’t find the going anywhere near as easy as it was against Hilo, but if he can get in the neighborhood of 20 points it might give UH a chance.