Shockers and Rainbow Warriors meet in Diamond Head Classic

Dec 23, 2014 - 4:27 PM Honolulu, HI ( - The 11th-ranked team in the nation shoots for win number 10 against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors during the semifinals of the Diamond Head Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center on Tuesday.

Wichita State, the Cinderella team that ran the table in 2013-14, cruising through the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament before being dismissed by Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament, is off to another strong start this time around with only one defeat in 10 opportunities, and that came by a single point in overtime versus Utah earlier this month.

On Monday. the team kicked off the tournament in Honolulu with a resounding 80-53 victory over Loyola Marymount in order to advance on the winner's side of the bracket.

As for the Rainbow Warriors, they too are off to an impressive start by their standards, winning nine of the first 12 contests, with six of those victories coming at home. Monday saw the program trip up Nebraska in a 66-58 final, the second straight win for Hawaii and the fifth in the last six outings overall.

In terms of the all-time series between these schools on the hardwood, Hawaii actually leads by a 2-1 margin, claiming victory in the most recent meeting back in 1998 by a score of 73-51.

The winner here will shoot for the tournament title on Christmas Day against the survivor of the George Washington/Colorado matchup.

Going up against an opponent that had just three wins in nine games heading in, the Shockers had little trouble taking care of business against Loyola Marymount, limiting the Lions to just 18 field goals, against 16 turnovers, and 0-of-5 behind the 3-point line. Wichita State spread the wealth once the outcome had been decided, as Darius Carter and Tekele Cotton led the way with 12 points apiece. Ron Baker tacked on 11 points and reserve Zach Brown dialed up 10 points in only 16 minutes off the bench for a unit that shot almost as well beyond the arc (.458) as it did from the floor overall (.464).

Heading into this tournament, the Shockers were getting 18.0 ppg out of Baker, his impressive 27-of-58 shooting behind the 3-point line accounting for a good portion of the damage. Baker, who was also responsible for 4.4 rpg, had left his teammates to convert a combined 40 triples prior to landing in Honolulu. Carter was pitching in with 12.7 ppg and Fred VanVleet another 12.6 ppg to go along with his 47 assists.

Hawaii shot only 36.4 percent from the field in the first half against Nebraska, including a mere 2-of-11 beyond the arc, and yet the hosts held a double-digit lead at the break based on the fact that the Huskers knocked down a total of only seven field goals through the first 20 minutes of action. Once it was all said and done, Aaron Valdes had emerged with 15 points and six rebounds, followed by Garrett Nevels and Isaac Fleming with 10 points apiece and a combined 13 boards as well.

Valdes, the leading scorer for the Warriors in the last four games and a total of seven games overall, is producing 16.7 ppg as he connects on 55.8 percent of his field goal tries. In addition, Valdes is also the top threat on the glass for the program with 7.4 rpg, while Nevels is second on that list with 5.0 rpg and is also second in scoring with 12.4 ppg, having made good on 21 3- pointers to this point. Although he did not score in double figures on Monday, Roderick Bobbitt (9.9 ppg) is always in the mix as he also keeps his teammates involved with 5.5 apg.

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