Hawai’i ‘Five-O’ faces Utah on road Thursday

Graduate transfer Justin McKoy is off to a strong start to his UH career, averaging 12.4 points and a team-high 8.6 rebounds through the first five games — all victories. (Matt Osumi photo)

Hawai’i Five-O is back — not the TV show, but the men’s college basketball team in Manoa that is off to the program’s first 5-0 start since 2010.

That pristine record will be put on the line Thursday in the Warriors’ biggest test so far — a 4 p.m. (Hawai’i time) game against Utah (4-2) at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City. The game can be viewed via livestream on the Pac-12 Network, or listened to on radio via CBS 1500AM.

The Utes are coming off a 78-71 victory at Saint Mary’s, a team that routed UH, 92-58, in an exhibition game in the SoFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center on Oct. 20.

Another factoid would appear to work against the Warriors: since 1954, Hawai’i is 1-23 against Utah in Salt Lake City, with the lone victory (69-68) coming way back on Feb. 16, 1984.

As for this year’s Utes, they literally present a tall challenge in the form of 7-foot center Branden Carlson, who is averaging 17. 3 points and 6.3 rebounds per outing — one of only six 7-footers in the country who are averaging over 17 points and six boards per game.

That challenge will fall mostly on 6-9 UH center Bernardo da Silva and his 7-1 backup, Mor Seck. Both have performed well so far, with senior co-captain da Silva averaging 9.2 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Seck, a sophomore, is averaging 5.4 points and 4.2 boards per outing off the bench, in addition to 1.2 blocks per game.

In Utah’s win at Saint Mary’s, guards Rollie Worcester (6-4) and Gabe Madsen (6-6) each scored 17 points, and another big guard, 6-7 Cole Bajema, tossed in 14 points.

The Warriors, meanwhile, are coming off a 77-66 victory over San Diego last Saturday to capture the inaugural Acrisure Invitational championship in Palm Desert, Calif.

Senior guard and co-captain Noel Coleman was named Most Valuable Player after scoring 17 points with seven rebounds in the 76-57 first round win over Texas-Rio Grande Valley and then notching a season-high 26 points versus San Diego. Coleman was honored as Big West Conference Player of the Week on Monday.

And while most Hawai’i players do not have much experience against Power Five opponents, graduate transfer Justin McKoy does. McKoy, who started his career at Virginia before playing for North Carolina, is averaging 12.4 points and a team-high 8.6 boards per game.

And although Utah leads the all-time series with 49 victories against 11 losses, the Warriors did win their last meeting, a 90-79 win in the John Wooden Legacy Classic in Fullerton, Calif., on Nov. 22, 2018.

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