By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
Tonight, the University of Hawaii men’s basketball team takes on UC Riverside in a Big West Tournament quarterfinal. The Rainbow Warriors (10-5 in the Big West, 16-10 overall) are the tournament’s No. 3 seed, while the Highlanders (9-6, 16-11) are the No. 6 seed. ESPN Honolulu will bring you the game live from the Dollar Loan Center in Henderson, Nevada. The Rivals Pregame Show starts at 5:30 p.m., with tipoff set for 6:30.
Here are some keys to the game for Hawaii:
TAKE CARE OF THE BALL: When you hear coaches talk about the importance of valuing every possession, it’s not just idle talk. The ’Bows tend to give up unforced turnovers in clusters, and that can’t happen against the opportunistic Highlanders. Hawaii has averaged 13 turnovers in their five conference losses this season.
GO INSIDE: When Hawaii started 6-0 to start conference play, one of their strengths was their ability and willingness to feed the ball inside for easy buckets, especially via backdoor cuts from the post. Of course, the three-point shot is a big part of this team’s offensive identity. (Hawaii makes 8.3 treys per came, putting it up from beyond the arc 22.9 times per contest). But if the deep ball isn’t falling, they need to go inside.
STEP UP THE D: In their regular season victory over Hawaii on Feb. 3, the Highlanders were led by guard Zyon Pullin and center Callum McRae, both of whom scored 19 points. Pullin is the team’s leading scorer (averaging 14 points per game), but Riverside is a balanced team with five players averaging double figures in scoring. What’s more, the Highlanders also love the three ball, putting it up from beyond the arc more than 23 times a game. Hawaii’s Mate Colina may play a big role in trying to contain the 7’1”, 295-lb. McRae.