The University of Hawaii men’s basketball team faces its stiffest test of the season when it battles No. 13 Oregon on Saturday afternoon.
The Rainbow Warriors practiced at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore. on Friday night in preparation for the Ducks. As the ‘Bows get themselves ready for a road game in a tough environment, they’ll do so knowing they’ve been through one before.
UH was tied at halftime at Illinois on Nov. 18 before ultimately falling 66-53. The memory of the loss still lingers for some on the team.
“We have a lot of motivation playing a tough team. We let one slip away at a Power 5 school and we have another shot to correct that and make it happen,” said ‘Bows point guard Drew Buggs.
Hawaii and Oregon are both 6-2 heading into Saturday’s matchup. For the battle tested Ducks, those two losses have come to college basketball powerhouses Gonzaga and North Carolina.
Hawaii acting head coach Chris Gerlufson acknowledged that the talent and explosiveness of the Ducks will provide a tough scout. But like Buggs, he hopes the team can carry over some lessons from the Illinois experience a few weeks back.
“We know what that’s gonna be about. We’re gonna have our hands full. We had an experience once already this year, going on the road at a high major team in a hostile environment,” Gerlufsen said. “I think we can circle back to that game and draw upon some of the things we learned on the road. We know how good you have to be to beat a team like that on the road. We’re going to have a heck of a week in preparation and getting ready for that game.
“We’re gonna obviously play as well as we can and hopefully have a chance to win during the last four minutes of the game.”
Eddie Stansberry enters Saturday’s contest as UH’s leading scorer with 18.8 points per game. The sharpshooter has connected on 44.1 percent of his 3-pointers and 88.2 percent of his free throws so far this season. When asked about the matchup, the senior sees a chance for the ‘Bows to earn a marquee win.
“Oregon’s a great program and they have a great team this year,” Stansberry said. “It’s just an opportunity for us to go in there and do something big for this program. I know all the guys are excited. Myself, the coaching staff, everyone in the program.
“Getting ready for this game, you kind of get those jitters and you get excited towards it. … I think we’re more than ready for this week and we’re excited for it.”
The Ducks are led by senior point guard Payton Pritchard, an Oregon native whose 18.6 points and 5.5 assists per game are both team highs. Buggs says he’s looking forward to the individual matchup but doesn’t want to take away attention from the team.
“I’m really excited for that. He’s one of the top point guards in the country. I have a lot of respect for him but I don’t fear him,” Buggs said. “Excited for that matchup, but I’m not gonna get too caught up in a one-on-one matchup. I’m more focused on getting the team ready to play.”