It's game day. The Aggie men's and women's basketball teams are back in action tonight as they both are in Honolulu to take on Hawai'i. The Aggie women are looking to bounce back from a disappointing loss to San Jose State, a game in which they led by eight early in the second half and by two late in the second half. Meanwhile, the men's team is looking to stay undefeated in conference play and improve to 5-0 in conference play.
The Aggies' game against the Warriors tonight is essentially an elimination game for Hawai'i. If they lose, they are essentially eliminated from the race for the top seed and likely eliminated from the race for the 2-seed as well. We've gone over it numerous times but in a 14-game league schedule there are three things you cannot do. The first is lose to a lower-tier team, second you cannot lose at home and third you cannot lose more than twice in the first half of the schedule. Hawai'i did the first two in one single game on Thursday night and the Aggies can hand them loss number three in conference play tonight.
Brian McInnis of the Honolulu Advertiser tweeted last night that Zane Johnson (stomach flu) practiced yesterday but point guard Miah Ostrowski (staph infection) did not. Ostrowski is doubtful for tonight's game and Johnson will be a game time decision. If there's any way Johnson can go, we have no doubt he will. Hawai'i certainly knows how important tonight's game is. As far as both go, even if they do play tonight, they will certainly not be anywhere near 100 percent and the big thing to watch for, especially in the second half if Johnson plays is his energy level and his legs. The flu is one of those things that saps your strength and Johnson is a shooter, he needs strength in his legs and that could be a huge factor in whether he's able to be effective tonight or not.
We also expect the Aggies to try to wear down UH big man Vander Joaquim. He's quite possibly the best player on the court for the Warriors and the matchup between him and the Aggie centers is an intriguing one and one of the few times this season that both Hamidu and Chili will be matched up with someone who is equal to them in both size and girth.
The other intriguing matchup tonight will be Wendell McKines and Joston Thomas. UH's versatile forward is more than capable of scoring at a high level. He had 27 points against San Jose State, 22 against Louisiana Tech and 24 against Xavier.
Defensively, Hawai'i is second in the league in field goal percentage defense (WAC games only) and tops in the league in blocks per game at 5.8 per game. Offensively, they struggle with turnovers and are last in the league but they make up for it on the offensive end by moving the ball around. They average almost 19 assists per game and will certainly challenge the Aggie defense with their ball movement.
Whether the Warriors play with their starting backcourt or without their starting backcourt, they're still a dangerous team and UH is in a situation where they probably feel backed into a corner. That's a very dangerous type of team to play and the Aggies certainly cannot take anything for granted in this game.
If the Aggies can continue to play with the high level of intensity that they've been playing with during this win streak and if they continue to play outstanding defense as they have during this stretch, they should come out victorious.
Tonight's game is part of a women's/men's doubleheader and will start at approximately 10:00 p.m. (MT) with coverage on AggieVision in Las Cruces. Radio coverage will be available on the Aggie Sports Network and via Aggie Access (subscription required).
The Aggie women's team will have their hands full with the Wahine tonight as well. UH is coming off a big-time win over Louisiana Tech winning by 15 points. UH is averaging 64 points per game in conference play while allowing 64.5. They are led by sophomore forward Kamilah Jackson who is averaging a double-double at 14.6 points per game and 10.6 rebounds per game (she and Wendell McKines are the only players in the WAC averaging double-doubles).
The Wahine lead the league in field goal percentage defense (in conference play). Offensively they don't shoot the three ball very well and the Aggies, particularly of late, have been a good three point shooting team. If the Aggies are hot tonight from deep, it could be a major advantage.
Both teams struggle with turnovers, UH is averaging 21 per game in conference play while the Aggies are averaging 16.7 in conference play.
As is always the case, the Aggies need to have at least three players come up big for them every night. Against SJSU they had two, Kaitlyn Soto and Erica Sanchez, but got limited production from Tabytha Wampler. She needs to be a big factor in every game and in particular tonight as she'll likely much of the defensive assignment in guarding Jackson. That means Tabytha needs to stay out of foul trouble as much as possible.
Tonight's game is scheduled for an 8:00 p.m. (MT) tipoff and can be heard on KSNM AM 570 in Las Cruces with streaming audio available via Aggie Access (subscription required).
On to today's links...
Aggie Men's Basketball
Jason Groves of the Las Cruces Sun-News previews tonight's game.
Dayton Morinaga of WarriorInsider previews the game.
The Hawai'i athletic department previews today's game.
USA Today previews tonight's matchup.
Aggie Women's Basketball
The UH athletic website previews today's game.
Anthony Esparza of The Round Up takes a look at the five story lines for the spring sports.
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