HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - On Thursday afternoon, the Rainbow Warriors will tip-off against UC Irvine to open play in the Big West tournament. During the regular season Hawaii split their series with UCI, with U.H. winning in Irvine and the Anteaters winning at the Stan Sheriff Center. While Hawaii heads into that match-up as the sixth seed, and Irvine the third, there's no clear favorite in the contest... or in any match-up Hawaii will face through the rest of the tournament for that matter.
That's because, for the first time ever in Hawaii men's basketball history U.H. has split their regular series contests with every single team in the Big West. From the top seed to the eighth, U.H. has found a way to beat the "best" team in conference this season... they've also found a way to lose to the worst. Whether it's the result of an evenly matched field from top to bottom, or of the Rainbow Warriors consistently inconsistent play this season, at 8-8 U.H. - along with almost every other team in the Big West has a decent shot at winning it all.
But first, they'll have to get past UC Irvine. The Anteaters have allowed the fewest points-per-game this season against Big West foes (67.3) and have held teams to less than 40% shooting from the field during conference play. They're also nearly identical to Hawaii in scoring - U.H. averages 70.2 points per game to UCI's 70.5, and turnovers per game.
The Rainbow Warriors are coming off of a mixed result on their most recent road trip. U.H. fell to UC Davis - the top seed in this year's tournament - last Thursday 70-59. Then followed that up with a win over fourth-seeded Cal State Fullerton, to close out their regular season slate.
Hawaii last met Irvine nearly two weeks ago. The Anteaters won that game 66-57. Hawaii struggled offensively in that game against UCI's stout defense. The Rainbow Warriors shot just 34.6% from the field - and where held to just 30.77% shooting in the first half.
Similarly, in their first meeting of the year, U.H. had to battle through offensive dry spells as well. After leading in the first half. the 'Bows shot just 12.5% from the field in their final frame. They just barely edged out the Anteaters in that meeting 62-61.