UH-Hilo’s men’s basketball team already has beaten one Division I team (Northern Colorado), challenged another (Pacific) and it opened the season against “big brother” (the UH-Manoa).
Is it possible Lubbock Christian will provide as tough a test – if not tougher – for the Vulcans as those previous three teams?
“Yes,” UHH coach Kaniela Aiona said. “They are really good all the way around.”
The Vuls got three days off “to catch up on some things,” Aiona, said after a torrid stretch in which his team played six times in seven days, but now it’s back to Oahu, and the No. 1 team in all Division II awaits.
It’s will an early holiday treat at 3 p.m. Wednesday and a ranked matchup at the Malika Sports Thanksgiving Classic when the No. 19 Vulcans and top-ranked Chaps collide in Honolulu. This is the highest ranking for Lubbock Christian (4-0) in the NABC poll. The Vuls entered the rankings – they were also ranked last season – thanks to their 4-0 start.
“I think it will be a good test for us,” Aiona said. “From one through five, each player is going to provide a different challenge for us.
“We knew they were going to be good when we scheduled them. You can’t get higher than No. 1. Anytime you play No. 1, it’s big deal.”
For the third time this season, UHH will fly to Oahu on Wednesday morning, but it won’t stay long. After the game, it will take a red-eye to Alaska for games against Alaska Fairbanks and Alaska Anchorage this weekend.
Along for the ride, of course, will be freshman guard Donald McHenry, who earned his first PacWest Player of the Week honors Monday for his performance against Alaska Anchorage last week at Hilo Civic.
McHenry scored a career-high 26 points to help his team defeat Alaska Anchorage 75-72. The left-hander from Milwaukee scored 26 points on 11-of-18 shooting from the field, including 2-of-4 from three-point range.
He scored 16 of his points in the second half as the Vulcans held off the Seawolves to improve to 4-0 for the first time since 2005.
McHenry is currently the fifth-highest scorer in the conference, totaling 52 points.
“He’s being a great teammate,” Aiona said. “He has the ability to score, but he’s unselfish.”