Gameday: at Cal State Fullerton

by Brian McInnis on January 5, 2017

Hawaii returns to Titan Gym today, where it held practices last year in preparation for the NCAA Tournament.

Hawaii returns to Titan Gym today, where it held practices last year in preparation for the NCAA Tournament.

Hawaii has never lost to Cal State Fullerton as a Big West member.

Even if you subtract the four wins that occurred in 2013 and 2014 that were subsequently vacated by the NCAA, the count stands at 5-0 for UH since 2012. (UH has to report it that way, but we at the paper don’t, so in this forum the series stands at 9-0 for UH as a BWC member and 11-2 all time.)

This time at Titan Gym, however, the 6-7 Titans are 6.5-point favorites over 6-7 Hawaii. It is the Big West Conference season opener for both teams. Tipoff is at 5 p.m. HST on ESPN3.

The last time UH was on a road trip was in Spokane, Wash., last March for the NCAA Tournament. In terms of crowd size and hostility, Titan Gym should serve as a gentle transition into some of the league’s more boisterous road environments like Long Beach State and UC Irvine.

UH won there last year behind a career-high 23 points from Isaac Fleming — his last great game as a UH player — and a late 3 from Stefan Jankovic that sent it into overtime, where UH dominated for an 86-79 final.

Matching up with Fullerton’s three-headed guard attack of Tre’ Coggins, Khalil Ahmad and Lionheart Leslie will be problematic for a UH backcourt that’s had its share of issues. UH is expected to roll with its three-guard starting lineup of Brocke Stepteau, Sheriff Drammeh and Leland Green again — but Noah Allen coming back into the starting lineup is a possibility that could happen anytime. I just don’t think it will be today.

Forward Jack Purchase has averaged 17 points over the last three games.

“I hope it travels with me,” Purchase said of his shot as he boarded the team bus behind the Stan Sheriff Center this week.

How the UH bigs (Purchase, Gibson Johnson, Ido Flaisher, Zigmars Raimo) deal with their Fullerton counterparts could be a good indicator of how they’ll fare in the league as a whole. Fullerton has respectable size and rebounding this year — probably a middle-of-the-road frontcourt in the BWC.

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