Hawaii spoiled Cal State Fullerton's homecoming night last season. Can the Rainbow Warriors do the same at league leader UC Irvine today?
It will be a tall task. Irvine (13-7, 4-0 Big West) ranks among the national leaders in blocked shots, rebounding, assists and defensive field-goal percentage. UH (13-5, 2-2), however, has put up an average of 95 points in its last two games, including a breakthrough 90-73 road win at UC Davis on Thursday.
Tonight's ESPN3-streamed game (5 p.m. HST) at the 5,000-seat Bren Events Center is a sellout. A festive atmosphere is expected. In its biggest road crowd of the season, in Kansas City vs. Missouri, UH performed reasonably well before falling to the Tigers, who've gone in and out of the AP Top 25 this season.
Senior forward Christian Standhardinger has been on a serious roll of late, and he stuffed just about every aspect of the stat sheet at Davis (22 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, five steals, two blocks) for his third straight double-double. It will be interesting to see how he and Isaac Fotu go at a huge Irvine front line anchored by 7-foot-6 Mamadou Ndiaye, the tallest player in the country.
UH coach Gib Arnold said he was actually most concerned about UCI's senior guard Chris McNealy, the balanced team's leading scorer at over 12 points per game.
The good news for UH: it will have 7-foot center Davis Rozitis back from academic ineligibility for this one. Rozitis was to meet the team this morning after flying out from Honolulu on Friday night.
And point guard Keith Shamburger missed Friday's practice while attending his aunt's funeral. Condolences to him. We'll see how he responds emotionally today; he comes from a close family. But he was certainly feeling it in the Davis win (14 points), particularly on his pull-up 3 to go into halftime.
Standhardinger surpassed 1,000 career college points in the Davis win (he was at 999 going in) when you include his season and a half at Nebraska. He still needs 165 more to join the UH 1K club. If he maintains his 18.4 scoring average, he'll accomplish the feat in roughly nine more games.
And Shamburger is nearing the career 1,000-point mark as well, including his two seasons at San Jose State. He needs 34 more points to get there.
Meanwhile, the Rainbow Wahine basketball team (9-7, 3-1) takes a three-game Big West winning streak into today's 5 p.m. home game against the women's Anteaters. If UH can seize this one, it'll have great momentum going into four straight road games over the next two weeks.
Unfortunately, the men's/women's games happen simultaneously today, but I'll do what I can to monitor both games at once on Twitter while at the Sheriff Center.