Hawaii (15-15) vs. Idaho (18-12)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, March 8, 3:00 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Orleans Arena (7,471) -- Las Vegas, Nevada. Television: None. Home Record: Hawaii 10-7, Idaho 10-4. Away Record: Hawaii 4-7, Idaho 7-7. Neutral Record: Hawaii 1-1, Idaho 1-1. Conference Record: Hawaii 6-8, Idaho 9-5. Series Record: Idaho leads, 14-6.
GAME NOTES: Owners of three titles from the Western Athletic Conference Tournament, the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors try to add to that total this week as they begin play in the 29th annual event against the Idaho Vandals in the quarterfinals at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
The sixth seed in the tourney this year after tying Louisiana Tech for fifth place in the conference standings at 6-8, the Warriors haven't been back to the championship game since 2002 when they defeated Tulsa for the crown for the second straight year. Because of the recent drought in the postseason tournament, Hawaii is just 21-23 in the event over the years. The team comes into the 2012 version having lost five straight outings.
As for the third-seeded Vandals, this has been one of their best seasons since joining the WAC, posting an 18-12 overall record and a mark of 9-5 in league play. However, this is also a tournament that has been quite unkind to Idaho, the team winning just once in seven previous outings. But the good news this time around is that the Vandals won seven of their final eight games of the regular season, something they hadn't done since the 1981-82 campaign when they finished 27-3 overall, won the Big Sky Conference and made it to the round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament.
With respect to the all-time series between these two schools on the hardwood, the Vandals are ahead by a count of 14-6 after the teams split their two meetings this season. The Vandals won the first matchup at home in Moscow by a score of 76-70 in late January, and then last week the Warriors returned the favor with an 82-63 final at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu.
The winner of this contest will be back in action on Friday to take on the survivor of the Fresno State/New Mexico State battle in the semifinals.
Vander Joaquim earned a spot on the All-WAC First Team as he led Hawaii in scoring (14.0 ppg) and rebounding (9.6 rpg) as he shot 55.9 percent from the floor and understood that his place was in the paint and not out on the perimeter where he didn't even attempt a single three-point shot. Joston Thomas and Zane Johnson are also listed as averaging 14.0 ppg, although they didn't score quite as many points overall. Johnson was the one who handled the long-distance shooting with 82 conversions from three-point range, but the team overall logged just 157 triples in 30 games. In conference games this season the Warriors scored a solid 73.3 ppg, but at the same time the squad gave up 77.9 ppg, although much of that can be attributed to a meeting against New Mexico State late last month when the Aggies posted a whopping 115 points in a home thrashing in Las Cruces.
The fact that Idaho went from being blown away by Nevada in the first meeting of the season in January (73-55), to taking down the mighty Wolf Pack (72-68) a month later says a lot about its character. Kyle Barone finished second on the Vandals in scoring with 12.6 ppg, but it was his efforts in the paint that made him so valuable as an All-WAC Second Team choice as he cleared 8.2 rpg and also blocked 47 shots. While Barone was patrolling the action on the interior, Deremy Geiger (13.0 ppg) was the one responsible for stretching defenses with his 43.2 percent shooting behind the three-point line. Also making the Vandals a successful perimeter team, Connor Hill set the record for the most conversions and the highest three-point shooting percentage for any freshman in the history of the program as he knocked down 45-of-110 (.409). As a group, Idaho was first in the WAC in both field goal percentage (.479) and accuracy beyond the arc (.393).
As long as the Vandals don't try to rely solely on their perimeter shooting in this meeting they should be able to advance to the next round, although Hawaii isn't about to roll over without a fight.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Idaho 68, Hawaii 62
03/08 10:31:41 ET