By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
The University of Hawaii men’s basketball team begins its quest for the conference championship tomorrow with a Big West Tournament quarterfinal matchup against UC Riverside. The Rainbow Warriors will take on the Highlanders at the Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas. Of course, ESPN Honolulu (92.7 FM/1420 AM) will bring you all the action, with Bobby Curran doing play-by-play. Tip-off is set for 6:00 p.m. Hawaii time.
Here are some quick notes about the game:
♦ Riverside is the No. 3 seed in the tournament, finishing the conference season with an 8-4 record (13-7 overall). Among their victories is a 16-point drubbing of Big West regular-season champion UC Santa Barbara. The Rainbow Warriors are the No. 6 seed, with a 9-9 conference record (11-9 overall).
♦ The two teams are knotted at eight wins apiece in their series history. They split their two-game set in Honolulu (January 8 and 9). Hawaii won the first game, 88-83, behind 24 points by James Jean-Marie and 21 by Junior Madut. The next night, the Highlanders prevailed, 70-68, despite Hawaii’s Casdon Jardine scoring a season-high 26 points. This will be the two schools’ first-ever meeting in postseason play.
♦ Under first-year head coach Mike Magpayo – the first head coach of Asian descent in NCAA Division I men’s basketball history – UC Riverside has posted the highest Big West finish in the program’s history. The Highlanders’ eight conference wins ties the school record, and this year’s squad reached that amount while playing four fewer games (due to COVID-19 concerns).
♦ Hawaii features a balanced scoring attack with four starters averaging at least 10 points per contest: guard Justin Webster (12.7), center Jean-Marie (12.6), forward Jardine (11.1) and guard Madut (10.4). Riverside, meanwhile, is led by forward Arinze Chidom (11.8 points per game).
♦ Riverside tops the Big West in defending three-point field goals, holding their opponents to just a .320 shooting percentage. However, Hawaii is second in this category, holding their opponents to a .324 percentage. This will be a statistic to watch, as both teams rely heavily on the three-point shot. The Highlanders have made 186 three-pointers this season (9.3 per game), while the Rainbow Warriors have made 159 (7.95 per game).
Here are tomorrow’s quarterfinal matchups and times (HST):
9:00 a.m.: (1) UC Santa Barbara vs (9) Long Beach State
Noon: (4) UC Davis vs (5) Cal State Bakersfield
3:00 p.m.: (2) UC Irvine vs (10) Cal Poly
6:00 p.m.: (3) UC Riverside vs (6) Hawaii
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