By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
The University of Hawaii men’s basketball team is scheduled to host Cal State Bakersfield this Friday and Saturday at the SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center. The Rainbow Warriors are currently 3-1 on the season (1-1 in Big West Conference play), while the Roadrunners are 7-4 (3-1 in the Big West).
Here are some random thoughts about Hawaii’s split against UC Riverside this past weekend:
♦ Let’s start with the obvious: Hawaii needs to learn how to put away opponents late in the game. They nearly let the Highlanders catch them at the end of Friday’s contest, and they had a four-point lead with 1:20 left in the game on Saturday before faltering, 70-68. As I saw it, UH gave up too many easy drives to the hoop and too many uncontested three-pointers down the stretch. That needs to be fixed.
♦ Hawaii has four quality guards in Justin Webster, Noel Coleman, Biwali Bayles and JoVon McClanahan. I love how Bayles is fearless in driving to the basket; he’s a good finisher, too. For a true freshman, he exudes confidence. I was also glad to see McClanahan get extended minutes (29) on Saturday after only playing eight minutes the day before.
♦ Again, it seems there is no one go-to scorer on this year’s team. Last season, if I remember correctly, at least seven different players had team-highs in scoring. This might be the case again this year. James Jean-Marie led UH with 24 points the first night, but only had 6 the next night. Casdon Jardine led the Rainbow Warriors with 26 points on Saturday after scoring 9 the night before. Junior Madut, who scored a combined 30 points in the two games, could potentially turn into the go-to guy.
♦ This is definitely a quicker and more athletic group than past UH teams. That, combined with the team’s depth, will hopefully mean more instances of full-court pressure defensively.
♦ One can only imagine how good this team could be right now if the pandemic hadn’t robbed them of most of the preseason. With eight new players, it will take time for this year’s Rainbow Warriors to really come together. They showed flashes of their potential against Riverside, but the chemistry isn’t quite fully there yet. The hope is that Hawaii will be able to peak just in time for the Big West Tournament. More importantly, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that the remainder of the schedule will be unaffected by COVID. It’s a lot to ask, but here’s hoping.
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