After losing their openers, then defeating their consolation opponents, the Ole Miss Rebels and Hawaiian Warriors will face off in Honolulu in a game that will conclude the Hawaiian Airlines Diamondhead Classic for both teams. The Rebels (9-2) were upset by Indiana State in the opener, falling 87-85. They rebounded a day later with a victory over the struggling Dons of San Francisco, who failed to close out a game with the absence of Bill Russell, the Rebels winning 85-78.
Host-team Hawaii (6-4) lost their opener against Miami (Fl) 73-58, avoiding a date with #4 Arizona. They took on East Tennessee State, who the Rebels defeated earlier this month, and won 84-61 for a shot at Ole Miss.
Hawaii is a very young group, with 8 freshman on their 15-man roster, including 3 starters. The youngsters are led by Isaac Fotu, who is fourth on the team in points at 9.2 ppg, and is second on the team with 7.8 rpg. A native of New Zealand, Fotu was one of the many big men utilized by coach Gib Arnold. Hawaii starts two forwards, two guards, and a center, with anywhere from 5-7 players coming off the bench in any given game.
In all, the Warriors have six players over 6’8, including 6’10 starting center Vander Joaquim. One of the three seniors on the team, Joaquim is coming off a 23 point, 9 rebound performance against the Buccaneers. He is second on the team with 14.3 ppg and is a menace down-low, averaging 7.4 rpg and shooting 53.3 percent from the field.
Point guard Jace Tavita typically sets the table for Hawaii, a true pass-first point guard. Tavita averages 5.4 apg, but has had trouble holding onto the ball, averaging 3.1 tpg as well. He’s tall for a prototypical point guard at 6’4, a good matchup for 6’3 Jarvis Summers. Shooting is not Tavita’s strong suit, averaging 3.1 ppg with a 14.3 free throw percentage.
The whole Warrior team, due in part to their height, is a below-average free throw shooting team. Collectively, they sit at 64.7 percent, and at 5-6, Ozren Pavlovic is the only player shooting above 77 percent from the stripe. ETSU only put them on the line 13 times, expect that to change when the Warriors face off against Andy Kennedy.
Due to the height of the Warriors, Kennedy will likely have to use all of his front-court depth. Anthony Perez and Aaron Jones should see minute increases as the Rebels will want to play aggressive and either contest shots or send the Warriors to the line. Reginal Buckner will have to avoid foul trouble in this one as he is arguably the best interior defender the Rebels have. With averages of 7.5 rpg and 2.8 bpg, Buckner could be a valuable asset in this one.
Murphy Holloway will not be able to bully his opponent as easily as he is used to, with multiple fresh big men able to come off the bench for Hawaii. Holloway has been doing his best Marshawn Lynch impression in Honolulu, with his 39 points and 26 rebounds falling under the category of “beast mode”. Hawaii averages over 16 tpg, so Holloway could have a field day poking balls loose and grabbing steals in this one.
The similarities between these two teams is eery. Poor foul shooting, tall guards, physical inside play, and outstanding rebounding describe each team precisely. This game should be close throughout, and it will be the hot-handed team who will get the last hang loose in Honolulu.