Turning point? Game vs. UC Davis will reveal

Hawai’i’s Kody Williams (left) and Ryan Rapp celebrate Thursday night’s thrilling 94-86 overtime victory over UC San Diego. (Brandon Flores Photography)

As much as the University of Hawai’i men’s basketball team would like to think Thursday’s thrilling 94-86 overtime home victory against UC San Diego was a major “turning point,” it won’t actually be so unless the Warriors can follow up with a “hana hou” win versus UC Davis on Saturday.

Tipoff for the Big West Conference showdown is set for 7 p.m. in SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center, and the game will be shown live statewide on Spectrum Sports Channel 12. It will also be carried live via radio on ESPN Honolulu 1420AM.

UH is 13-11 overall and 5-7 in league play, and a potential victory over UC Davis (15-8, 10-2) would shake things up not just for these two teams, but also others in the league.

But just like Thursday, it won’t be easy.

The Aggies feature one of the Big West’s top players in 6-foot-4 senior guard Elijah Pepper, who scored a game-high 19 points and grabbed five rebounds with four assists and four steals in the Aggies’ 71-58 home victory over Cal State Fullerton on Thursday. Ty Johnson added 17 points, three rebounds, two boards and one steal.

“They have a point of attack, they have great players around them and Davis is really good defensively,” Warriors coach Eran Ganot said. “They scrap.”

Hawai’i is coming off its best all-around offensive performance of the season, with six players finishing in double-figure scoring: Justin McKoy (22), Noel Coleman (16), Ryan Rapp (13), Kody Williams (13), Bernardo da Silva and Juan Munoz (10).

The Warriors shot 55.6 percent (35 of 63 attempts) from the field, including 42.9 percent (9 for 21) on 3-point goals. Just as important — or perhaps more so — was the area of rebounding, where they out-boarded the Tritons, 40-24.

“I think we made some strides,” Ganot said. “I think the end of the first half, into the start of the second half, was maybe our best defensive stretch … the other part that was better was, we were better in the paint, so the differential wasn’t that significant.

“We got key stops late, and the rebounding was the big difference.”

As great as Ganot and the team felt about Thursday’s victory, they knew there wouldn’t be much time to celebrate with UC Davis looming around the corner. UH senior point guard and tri-captain JoVon McClanahan has been out since Tuesday’s practice after injuring his right shoulder, which was in a sling Thursday night. Ganot himself was under the weather and coached “from afar” on Tuesday and Wednesday while associate head coach John Montgomery and the rest of the staff ran practice.

“Now we just gotta focus on Davis, they’re another tough team,” Rapp said. “We gotta try and take care of home court.”


  1. UC Irvine (11-1)
  2. UC Davis (10-2)
  3. UC San Diego (9-3)
  4. Long Beach State (6-5)
  5. Cal State Northridge (6-6)
  6. UC Santa Barbara (6-6)
  7. HAWAI’I (5-7)
  8. Cal State Fullerton (4-7)
  9. Cal State Bakersfield (4-8)
  10. UC Riverside (4-8)
  11. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (0-12)

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