Tourney time: Rainbow Warriors set to begin Big West title defense

IRVINE, CALIFORNIA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Fifteen miles from the Honda Center, the University of Hawaii men's basketball team practiced Wednesday afternoon at Irvine Valley College.  It was the Rainbow Warriors final tune up before beginning their Big West Tournament title defense against Long Beach State Thursday night.

"I think we're just happy for the opportunity," said senior Noah Allen.  ""Some of us didn't pack enough for the trip, so that's something we've had to adjust to, but like I said, we're just blessed for the opportunity and want to go out there and perform and take advantage."

"It's what you live for. March, conference tournament, postseason," said head coach Eran Ganot.  "Obviously we've had a couple of days to one, recharge, and then make the necessary adjustments we need to make, or in some cases do some things we weren't doing a little bit better."

Those adjustments are defensively where the 'Bows focus in practice has been getting back in transition and helping in the paint after being outscored 44-18 inside in Saturday's loss.

"We don't have great depth and we don't have tremendous size, but we've been helping our guys out," said Ganot.  "We did not do a good job supporting our big's inside, and certainly it was tough to do that when they caught it so low, so at the point of attack we have to get them off the block so our support can get there."

Junior forward Gibson Johnson put that task squarely on his shoulders.

"Obviously they hit some tough shots that we played good defense on, and I need to do a better job in the post not allowing post scoring," said Johnson.  "If we're able to close down points in the paint, I think we'll get the W."

In the first meeting this season, UH outgunned Long Beach in a fast-paced game that finished with 221 points scored, but Allen cautioned a similar strategy tomorrow night.

"The pieces we have on our team, we're definitely not much of an up-tempo team, that's more of their style of play," said Allen.  "We know we have to get stops and if we do that, that will slow them down."

All-conference honorable mention Jack Purchase will be a game-time decision after rolling his ankle grabbing a rebound Saturday.   The 'Bows three-point sharpshooter had a noticeable limp at today's practice.

"To be honest, I think everyday he's gotten a little bit better," said Ganot.  "He's moving in the right direction. I think the next 24 hours will be critical."

This will be the third straight year UH and LBSU have met in the Big West Tournament.  The 'Bows have won the previous two including in the championship game last year.  Their road back to the title game starts with the Beach in Anaheim Thursday night.

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