Hawaii can prove it has well and truly put its recent funk behind it by defeating first-place UC Irvine tonight in front of a “Whiteout” crowd at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Fifth-place UH (16-10, 7-6 Big West) has won three straight since dropping five in a row, its worst Big West slide to date, just a couple of weeks ago.
UCI (15-15, 10-4) needs a win tonight to keep pace ahead of UC Santa Barbara for the pole position they seized from the Gauchos on Thursday, 69-49.
The Anteaters, the No. 3 team in the country in rebound average, have been exceptional of late. They are 7-1 in their last eight, with the only loss the amazing 62-61 UH win at Bren Events Center nine days ago. If you’ll recall, UH shot 3-for-24 in the second half, and still managed to pull it out. You won’t see that very often.
That’s also the game senior forward Mike Thomas got hurt, although he played out that game. He’s back from his unspecified injury tonight, rejoining fellow senior Gibson Johnson in the frontcourt. Drew Buggs, Brocke Stepteau and Sheriff Drammeh are the guards.
UH is favored by two points. This has the makings of a drag-out, knock-down defensive grind of a game.
Irvine, which likes to zone smaller teams, has the deeper frontcourt (even with the way Zigmars Raimo has played of late). Junior forward Jonathan Galloway, the reigning Big West defensive PoY, is surrounded by four sophomores, most notably Tommy Rutherford.