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Gary’s Blog: Close, But…

By Gary Dickman.

So close. So very close. I was already thinking how I would start this week talking about the UH men’s basketball team going 2-0 on the road to open their Big West season. Instead, I start with, “So close, so very close.” Our Bows were a little over a minute away from sweeping UC Riverside, but instead got an acceptable split on the road.

I was curious and not sure what to expect in the first game last Friday at Riverside. As I wrote last week, both teams had long breaks between games, and I thought that would be a factor in game 1. I thought it might be a low scoring game. Instead, Hawaii won, 88-83, and played as well as you could have hoped for overall. How about seven turnovers, only one in the first half. James Jean-Marie, the 6-9 transfer, got his first start and was outstanding. Jean-Marie scored 24 points on 10-15 shooting, and also hit three 3-pointers and added 5 rebounds. Being versatile, scoring down low, and being able to hit the three pointers while drawing the defense outside, are more reasons to love everything about what he brings to this team.

This will be the first time in a while where Hawaii’s size  will be able to match up with other bigs in the league. The three 7 p-footers that we had the last few years just didn’t work out. But the one who stayed is really making his presence felt on both ends of the court. And that’s Mate Colina, who hit a 3-pointer on Friday and also took two charges in this game. That’s three possessions that he made a big difference, possibly a seven-point swing that wouldn’t have happened on this team the last few years.

And then there’s Junior Madut, who already is making the loss of Samuta Avea less of a loss. Madut added 21 points on 7-11 shooting and had a game-high 7 rebounds. Junior also had 3 assists and 3 steals and a blocked shot. But what impressed me the most was right before halftime, Madut drove baseline, pumped fake, spun to create space and went up strong to get the basket. He attacked the rim, something that hasn’t been done to much here in a while. Again, another difference maker on this team.

So even though UH was out-rebounded by 12, they shot  49%  and with only seven turnovers, won an important road game.  Now it would have been great to get a sweep on the road, but the second game on Saturday could have been titled, “Trading Places.” Hawai’i had the rebounding edge in this game, they also committed more turnovers than Riverside, with 15 for the game. And the only starter who didn’t score in double figures on Friday, Casdon Jardine, came up big. Cardine had 26 points on 10-12 shooting, including 4-4 on 3-pointers, and added 9 rebounds. Hawaii had the lead most of the game and were up 4, 66-62, with 1:15 left when Riverside hit a 3, and then another 3. Hawaii had gotten a basket as well, and the teams were tied at 68-68. Justin Webster missed a 3, and then with two seconds left, Arinze Chidom scored in the paint to win the game, 70-68, for the Highlanders. I have no idea why they’re called the Highlanders. So 1-1 for now, and we have Cal State Bakersfield coming here this week. Bakersfield’s nickname is the Roadrunners. I have no idea why they’re called the Roadrunners. To be honest, I don’t really care. If I did, I’d find out why.

Very interesting news announced yesterday about UH football. They’ll be playing their home games on campus for the next three years at the TC Ching complex. It was their best option as Maui didn’t make sense and Aloha Stadium wouldn’t be safe enough. I’m curious on what the actual capacity will be, although AD David Matlin told me they could get more than 12,000 there with portable bleachers. I’m sure UH will do all they can to get as many seats as they can, and to make it as fan friendly as possible. I also wonder about the parking. OMG, the parking. Remember how it’s been with a sold-out Stan Sheriff Center. Imagine 2,000-4,000 more fans trying to park in that way-too-small garage, where many stalls are barely big enough for mopeds. But as I wrote recently, don’t sweat the small stuff. We should all be glad that they’ll be playing, and that they have a temporary place on Oahu. If you’re not satisfied with that, just remember all the games you went to in person over the last 10 months. See my point?

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