UPDATE II: The UH basketball teams went 0-2 against the defending Big West champions on Saturday, as the Rainbow Warriors fell 74-60 at UC Irvine — their fifth straight loss to the Anteaters and seventh in the last eight meetings. UH spotted the hosts an 11-0 lead, rallied back to lead briefly, fell behind by 14 at halftime, and got within four by finally succumbing.
UPDATE: The Rainbow Wahine basketball team fell behind by 21 going into the fourth, rallied within five points on Julissa Tago’s shooting, then ran out of gas in a 62-49 loss at UC Davis to drop to 0-2 in Big West play.
The UH men tip off at 5 p.m. HST at UC Irvine on ESPN3.
The Hawaii men’s and women’s basketball teams followed divergent paths in their Big West Conference openers on Thursday.
That set up a couple of Big West barometer games against defending champions on Saturday, with the Rainbow Warriors (10-5, 1-0 BWC) testing themselves at UC Irvine (8-8, 0-0) and the Rainbow Wahine (6-8, 0-1) going to UC Davis (5-9, 0-1).
The Anteater men and Aggie women may not be quite the same squads they were last year in winning their respective regular seasons as well as conference tournaments, but they’d each represent something of a statement win for UH should it prevail.
Eddie Stansberry (17.4 ppg), should he keep up his hot shooting of the last couple of games, can bolster his Big West Player of the Year candidacy with a win at a tough place to play like UCI. He’s got nine 20-point games to date, including 25 on 10-for-15 shooting in the 75-69 victory at Cal State Fullerton on Thursday. He was clutch down the stretch, too, with a floater in the final minute to push the lead back to three after the Titans were threatening to completely erase a 16-point UH lead.
But it could be the play of the UH bigs that determines the outcome against a typically imposing Anteaters front line. Zigmars Raimo, Bernardo da Silva (coming off his first career double-double) and Dawson Carper will have to hold their own down low against the likes of Collin Welp, Tommy Rutherford and Brad Greene.
A win at UCI (5 p.m., ESPN3, KKEA 1420-AM) would signal the rest of the league that UH is ready to emerge from its middle-of-the-pack malaise of the last few years. The Anteaters have won four straight over UH and six of the last seven.
Meanwhile, the top overall player for the Rainbow Wahine, Amy Atwell, went out with an undisclosed injury in the first half of Thursday’s 58-54 loss at Cal State Northridge — the fourth straight BWC-opening defeat for the Wahine on the mainland. Atwell’s status for today’s noon matchup at Davis is unclear. The Wahine tried to operate through Julissa Tago and Myrrah Joseph down the stretch against the Matadors, but it was clear they missed that extra offensive threat.
Still, Davis is down with Morgan Bertsch and some of the Aggies’ complementary players gone from last year. UH could get right back into the mix by avenging last year’s loss in the Big West tournament title game (noon, BigWest.TV).
This post will be updated.