Utah aims to take down unbeaten Hawaii
Fresh off earning a big road victory, Utah has a chance to build on its momentum when it hosts Hawaii in Salt Lake City on Thursday.
The Utes (4-2) snapped a two-game losing streak with a 78-71 win over Saint Mary's on Monday. It was Utah's first true road victory in nonconference play since the 2019-20 season opener against Nevada. Rollie Worster and Gabe Madsen scored 17 points apiece to pace Utah, which led by 15 points in the second half before holding off a late charge from the Gaels.
Poor shooting opened a door for the Utes to gradually build a double-digit lead. Saint Mary's shot just 34.5 percent from the field after halftime, and missed 10 of its first 11 shots in the second half.
"We showed a lot of toughness and a lot of grit," Utah third-year coach Craig Smith said.
Hawaii presents another significant challenge. The Rainbow Warriors (5-0) are off to their best start since the 2010-11 season after winning the Acrisure Invitational over Thanksgiving weekend. They ran off back-to-back double-digit victories against UT-Rio Grande Valley (76-57) and San Diego (77-66).
Noel Coleman earned tournament MVP and Big West Player of the Week honors after averaging 21.5 points over both games for Hawaii.
Thursday's game will be played at the Delta Center -- home arena for the Utah Jazz. This marks the third consecutive neutral site contest for the Rainbow Warriors.
"This is what you'll see in a conference tournament or the other tournaments we're trying to get into," Hawaii coach Eran Ganot said. "Neutral sites, seeing different teams with different styles and playing in a quick turnaround. All of those experiences are valuable moving forward."
A win over the Utes would give the Rainbow Warriors a 6-0 start for the first time since the 2004-05 season. Earning victories in the state of Utah is rare for Hawaii, which is 1-24 all-time against Utah in Salt Lake City.
Utah leads the all-time series 49-11. The former rivals met 41 times in 1980 to 1999 when both schools belonged to the Western Athletic Conference. The Rainbow Warriors won the most recent game in the series in 2018, beating the Utes 90-79 in the Wooden Legacy at Fullerton, Calif.
--Field Level Media
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