comscore ’Bows look at reserves to come through | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

’Bows look at reserves to come through

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    Hawaii guard Isaac Fleming may be called upon to fill in for Aaron Valdes and Roderick Bobbitt.

Hawaii’s “next man up” mentality will likely get put to the test again today in its first conference road game of the season.

In just their second mainland game of 2015-16, the Big West co-leading Rainbow Warriors (13-2, 2-0 BWC) could be down a couple of key contributors at UC Riverside’s SRC Arena. Starters Roderick Bobbitt and Aaron Valdes are varying degrees of questionable to play.


At Riverside, Calif.

>> Hawaii (13-2, 2-0 Big West) at UC Riverside (9-9, 0-2)

>> When: Today, 5 p.m.

>> Video streaming: ESPN3

>> Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM

>> Series: UH leads 6-2

Valdes, the team’s explosive leading scorer, wore a protective boot on his right foot when the team flew out on Tuesday minus Bobbitt. Bobbitt, the playmaking point guard, completed some necessary coursework back in Honolulu on Wednesday and was to fly to Los Angeles either Wednesday night or this morning to rejoin the squad, per sources. However, he missed the last two full team practices and it is unknown if he will reprise his starting role today.

Valdes is still recovering from a painful turf toe injury and was more optimistic about playing in Saturday’s matchup at Cal State Fullerton than making a return today.

Things could get bumpy, even as the Rainbows display their first AP and USA Today Coaches Poll votes for the first time in a decade.

“A lot of adversity has hit us, will continue to hit us,” UH coach Eran Ganot said Tuesday when asked about Valdes’ status. “We just gotta continue to fight through. The reality is this is a heck of a conference, top to bottom, really well coached. Really balanced, we’ve seen some really good players and talent. The first two games (wins over Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara) are indicative, I think, of how every game will go.”

UH acquitted itself well in its only road game to this point, an 82-74 loss at Texas Tech of the Big 12 on Nov. 28. The Rainbows led by 11 points late in the first half.

“We gave ourselves a chance,” Ganot said. That’s what you have to do on the road. Again, defend, rebound, take care of the ball. Now we have the added adversity we’re dealing with, which … every team does over the course of a long year.”

Reserve guards Isaac Fleming, Sheriff Drammeh and Niko Filipovich could see increased roles if Bobbitt or Valdes are unable to play today. Forward Stefan Jankovic (14.8 ppg) could see his workload increase, as well.

Fleming is coming off a career-high 22 points in UH’s 65-57 win over UCSB on Saturday.

To the sophomore, basketball is basketball, no matter where the hardwood is or whether he starts on it.

“You can’t go in there second-guessing yourself, because when you do that, that’s when chaos happens,” Fleming said. “(Missing a player) just means that the next person has to step up, just be ready to … provide the help that we need to come out with the victory.”

UH got in a practice at the modest, 3,000-seat SRC Wednesday afternoon.

“Hawaii, obviously, a big name, big draw, everybody watched them over the holidays,” UCR coach Dennis Cutts said. “People are talking about them. I think our crowd will be pretty energetic and a good size.”

People in the Inland Empire are talking a little more about Riverside hoops (9-9, 0-2) these days, too. The Highlanders’ nine wins in nonconference play was their high mark as a Division I program.

But UCR lost in stunning fashion in its Big West opener vs. Fullerton last week, squandering a 20-point lead with 10 minutes to play in a 79-73 home loss. They followed it up with an 84-68 blowout defeat at preseason favorite UC Irvine.

“We’re 10 minutes away … from being 10-8 and 1-1 and people are still looking at us different,” Cutts said. “So I don’t look at anything different at our team. But this is obviously a big one at home, especially with this caliber opponent coming in here.”

Riverside depends on the senior tandem of guard Jaylen Bland and forward Taylor Johns to do most of its damage.

Bland is the Highlanders’ leading scorer at 16.7 points per game. He’s a threat from beyond the arc, averaging 3.6 made 3s a game — eighth in the nation. Johns is rounding into form after an early season suspension and is averaging 14.5 points and 8.0 rebounds.

Wing Secean Johnson, a junior college transfer, is the Highlanders’ most significant newcomer, averaging 11.7 points.

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  • Glad Rod is joining the team. Whether he starts or not, he’ll hopefully get plenty of playing time. AV should take sufficient time to get toe healed. GO BOWS!

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