GAME NOTES: Sporting the second-best overall record among teams in the Big West Conference, the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors focus on picking up their first league victory of the season tonight as they host the UC Riverside Highlanders at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Hawaii, which is opening its home slate of Big West contests, is hoping to break a two-game slide. The team began the conference schedule with a trip to California last week which resulted in setbacks to both Cal Poly (77-65) and Cal State Northridge (79-78). A well-rested squad, the Rainbow Warriors have won all but two of their 11 home dates this season.
As for the Highlanders, they were in action two nights ago versus UC Davis and came away with an 81-69 victory in order to snap a three-game slide. The game offered a comeback from 19 points down, matching the largest deficit ever erased by UCR at the Division I level. However, the win was just the first for the program, against a D-I foe, since five days before Christmas when the Highlanders topped Illinois-Chicago by a single point, 57-56,
Hawaii leads the all-time series with the Highlanders by a count of 3-1, and will visit UCR the second week of February to complete the regular-season series.
Trailing by a score of 51-32 at the 17:17 mark of the second quarter, the Highlanders shot a staggering 70.8 percent from the field, including 6-of-7 behind the 3-point line after the break in order to capture the win on Thursday night at The Pavilion. Taylor Johns led the way with 22 points, Sam Finley came off the bench to post 19, followed by Chris Patton and Steven Thornton with 14 and 13 points, respectively.
A starter in all but one of the team's 17 games, Johns leads the program in scoring with 13.3 ppg as he shoots an impressive 55.9 percent from the field, but at the same time a lackluster 57.7 percent at the free-throw line. Patton checks in with 12.7 ppg and, when teamed with Johns, accounts for close to 15 rebounds per contest which is just enough to give the program a slight edge over the competition.
In a game that featured 12 ties and six lead changes, the Rainbow Warriors had a chance for their first conference win of the season last weekend, but it simply wasn't in the cards as they lost by a point to the Matadors at the Matadome. Christian Standhardinger registered a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Isaac Fotu had a similar effort with 16 points and 11 boards. Garrett Nevels tallied a team-best 19 points and Brandon Spearman 15, but fellow starter Keith Shamburger finished a mere 1-of-9 from the floor for three points.
Still one of the top scoring teams in the country with 80.7 ppg, the Rainbow Warriors are led by Standhardinger with his 17.6 ppg, placing first on the unit with 7.4 rpg as well. Fotu (13.6 ppg) has had games where he has flourished on the glass, but for the time being his average is down to only 6.6 rpg and the team's edge in that department dipping to 5.1 rpg. Nevels (14.1 ppg) and Spearman (10.8 ppg) complete the list of double-digit scorers for the program.
With all this time to rest and prepare for a Highlanders squad that is having to make a quick turn-around after playing on Thursday night, Hawaii should have enough of an advantage to pick up its first conference win of the season.
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