Warriors aim for series sweep at UC Davis

Hawai’i point guard Juan Munoz swished two of the Warriors’ 12 made 3-pointers in an 87-70 home victory over UC Davis on Feb. 10. (Chris Kadooka photo)

UC Davis guard Elijah Pepper has had many historic nights on his home court, the University Credit Union Center, in the past four years. And he no doubt hopes to make his final appearance there on Thursday the most legendary one of them all.

The only thing standing in his way is Hawai’i, which meets the Aggies at 4 p.m. (HST) in a key Big West Conference showdown. The game will be shown via livestream on ESPN+ and broadcast live on radio by ESPN Honolulu 1420AM.

The Warriors are 16-12 overall and 8-8 in league play after last Saturday’s 73-65 home victory over Long Beach State. UC Davis is 16-12, 11-6 coming off a stunning 75-56 loss at Cal State Bakersfield the same night.

The Aggies have lost four their past five games, but are hoping to send Peppers — a career 2,000-point scorer — off with a victory on Senior Day. And according to UH coach Eran Ganot, it’s a challenge the Warriors will also embrace.

“They’ve been good over the years, they’ve had several years where they haven’t lost at home,” Ganot said. “It’s a competitor’s desire to play against a really good team on their home court, it’s Senior (Day) for a great senior class and one of the best players in Big West history, in Pepper. They’ll be fired up for it, and that’s kind of what you want to play in.”

Hawai’i at least brings the confidence earned having already beaten UC Davis just 19 days prior, in an impressive 87-70 home win. During the first 20 minutes alone, the Warriors made 15 of 21 field goals (71.4 percent) including a stunning 9 of 11 (81.8 percent) from 3-point range, and also went 6 of 8 (75 percent) from the free throw line.

Pepper had 15 points by halftime, but was 5 of 13 from the field. Of course, he kept shooting and ended up with a game-high 27.

“That’s great about the game, that’s what you want as a competitor, is if we’re not on it, we’re going to get exposed,” Ganot said. “And we deserve to be exposed. Pepper — OK, we held him in check for a couple minutes. (But) he’s a 40-minute cover. We’ve seen him score in a flurry, so discipline will be a key component in that. A lapse can get him going quick … like we’ve always said, you’re not going to hold him down. You gotta make him work for everything on both ends, and go from there.”

Pepper, a solidly built and physical 6-4 wing, played just a shade under 36 minutes in that game and can be described as “relentless.” He finished 8 of 25 from the field, but was 8 of 9 from the line and had a motor that seems to lack an “off” switch.

“With guys like that, he’s not going to stop shooting,” said UH point guard Juan Munoz. “Even if he’s 0 for 10, he’s going to keep shooting, so for guys like that you gotta make his shots tough. So just trying to make his night tough is something that we’re going to try and focus on.”

Ty Johnson, a 6-3 guard, scored 22 points at Cal State Bakersfield last Saturday, and had 15 at Hawai’i on Feb. 10.

“Those games are always fun, playing against great players like that,” Munoz said. “It’ll be a great matchup, those guys are scorers.”

For the Warriors, putting together complete 40-minute performances has been a challenge the past two seasons, but last Saturday’s victory over Long Beach State seemed to come close to that. They led from wire to wire, and after a building a 50-35 lead early in the second half, did not allow The Beach to get closer than six points the rest of the way.

“Teams will go on runs,” Ganot said. “There’s a lot of really good teams in our league, good players, good coaches. It’s gonna come down to, if we can maximize our runs and limit theirs. I think that was a big part of it. A 4-0 run is a lot different from an 8-0 run … I think a big key (against) Long Beach was limiting their easy baskets, which usually leads to the biggest runs.”

Ganot said overall, he is proud of how his team has rebounded from a slow conference start and is now on the brink of breaking through the .500 barrier.

“What we’ve done is put ourselves in position with four games left,” Ganot said. “But even four games is a lot.”


  1. UC Irvine (13-3)
  2. UC San Diego (13-3)
  3. UC Davis (11-6)
  4. Long Beach State (10-6)
  5. CSUN (9-8)
  6. HAWAI’I (8-8)
  7. UC Riverside (8-9)
  8. UC Santa Barbara (7-9)
  9. Cal State Bakersfield (6-11)
  10. Cal State Fullerton (5-11)
  11. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (0-16)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Theme Blog Explorer by Kantipur Themes