Statistically it it didn’t count, but Kupaa Harrison’s performance could linger for a while in what is the endless loop of Spectrum Sports reruns.
Back home on Oahu last Saturday, Harrison enjoyed his best game of the season, in an exhibition, no less, as UH-Hilo gave Hawaii a challenge in an 82-75 loss that left the Rainbow Warriors’ TV announcers impressed.
The Vuls (3-3) are back at Hilo Civic on Friday for a noon matinee against Western Oregon, one of the top teams in the West, and they could use another strong showing from Harrison, especially considering they’ll be without leading scorer James Griffin, according to a university release.
Griffin exited the game against Hawaii just six minutes in with an injury, and Harrison, a 6-foot-5 junior forward, helped pick up the slack, scoring 21 points with 10 rebounds and five assists.
A top option off the bench to start the season, Harrison will make his third start against the Wolves (6-1). He’s UHH’s leading rebounder (5.5 per game) – not counting the UH game – and he’s tied for the team lead in assists and steals. Another former reserve, sophomore guard Cleo Cain, is slated to make his second start Friday and is third on the team in scoring (9.3 points), making 10 of 19 3-pointers.
Western Oregon, ranked seventh in the West after finishing 31-2 and reaching the NCAA Division II regional finals last season – had its own brush with a Division I upset earlier this season, trailing then-No.14 Oregon by only two points at the half in early November. The Wolves’ only loss came to former PacWest member Dixie State, but they come in on a three-game winning streak, including a 96-88 win against No. 15 Western Washington.
The Vuls’ pressure defense gave Hawaii fits at times, and they’re forcing 19 turnovers a game, 15th-best in Division II. Conversely, the Wolves are fourth in the nation with a turnover margin of 7.3 per game, and they’re balanced, with seven different players averaging seven points or better.
Senior guard Larry Bush went through a scoring drought earlier in the season when the Vulcans split with Simpson, but he registered his third 20-point game of the season against UH. Those stats, of course, didn’t count to his 12.0 scoring average, though the game may be rerun on OC16 some day soon.