By Gary Dickman and Tiff Wells.
It’s conference basketball season! And for both the Rainbow Warriors and the Rainbow Wahine, it’s year nine of playing in the Big West Conference. In this edition of “Around the Arc,” we look at five of the biggest storylines around Hawaii and the rest of the conference, either from the previous week or heading into week six of conference play. Gary Dickman looks at the men’s side, while Tiff Wells features the women’s side.
By Gary Dickman:
It feels good to be writing about a win for the UH Basketball team, especially after that four-game losing streak. Let’s all hope that last Saturday’s win is a sign of the season turning around..
- Plain and simple, has this team turned the corner? Even though the four-game losing streak was early in the season, it had UH near the bottom of the conference standings. It was important to get the win at Cal State Fullerton last Saturday for several reasons. One is this team needed to show themselves that they could adjust from a loss on the previous night and win on the next night. That was the first time they’ve won on Saturday after losing on Friday. It’s a sign of growth, I hope. And how about this? It was a 39-point swing in game two against the Titans (UH lost by 16 on Friday and won by 23 on Saturday). Even the fans who are down on this team had to applaud that.
- I wrote last week that this team needed to establish an identity. I feel they’ve been doing that now. One example is sophomore guard Justin Webster, the co-captain who has not only been putting up big numbers in terms of points, but it’s the way in which he’s been scoring. J-Web has been hitting a lot of 3’s lately and as assistant coach John Montgomery told me on the Sports Animals show earlier this week, he’s been aggressive in driving to the basket as well. Webster put up 20 points and six rebounds, in addition to his three assists, on Friday. Then on Saturday, his minutes were limited due to being in foul trouble. But he still had 12 points, seven rebounds and three assists in the blowout win. It’s becoming obvious to me that he’s emerging as a reliable go-to scorer, who can at times take over a game and carry his team. This team definitely needs that.
- I’ve written about the point guard position a few times this season and that continues here into this week. Starting point guard Noel Coleman missed both games last week at Cal State Fullerton, as he was dealing with tooth issues. I’ve heard he could be ready for this crucial week against UC Irvine. Coleman has been okay so far this season. He hasn’t hurt the team but he hasn’t been overly productive either. Freshman Biwali Bayles got the start last week. Even though he shot poorly on Saturday, he grabbed seven rebounds, had four assists and most importantly, did not turn the ball over in 30-plus minutes of play. That’s amazing! I’m sure the UH coaches will take that type of play from Bayles every game. It was probably the most productive play from the UH point guard position this entire season. This is also very encouraging.
- Why isn’t James Jean-Marie playing more minutes? Jean-Marie has started every conference game this season. However, in both games last week, he played less than 20 minutes. Foul trouble only explained a little of this in the game one loss on Friday night. He hasn’t been hurt and wasn’t in foul trouble on Saturday; he only played 18 minutes. He leads the Big West in field goal percentage at 63.5%. I haven’t heard a reason as to why his minutes are down. Jean-Marie had 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting in Saturday’s win with most of those points coming in the second half. Let’s see how many minutes Jean-Marie plays in this weekend’s series here at home versus UC Irvine.
- I usually go over storylines based on Hawaii’s players and team concerns. I’m going to do that here again but mix it in with this week’s opponent…UC Irvine. Last week in the win at Cal State Fullerton, the Bows out-rebounded the Titans, 48-21. That discrepancy is incredible and also a big reason as to why they won by 23 points. Overall on Saturday, they defended better, especially in the paint. Cal State Fullerton had 14 less points in the paint on Saturday. Now comes in UC Irvine, who has won their last four here in Manoa. The Anteaters have the top rebounding margin in the league and one of the best in the country, at + 11. They’ve got 2 dangerous bigs, Collin Welp (the leading scorer in the Big West) and 6’11 center Brad Greene. I’m hopeful that Hawai’i can come close to doing on the boards this week what they did last week. Cal State Fullerton had the top two rebounders in the conference and UH kept both of them well below their season averages. UH has done a great job in limiting turnovers this year. Last week was the second time they had just one turnover in a half. They only had nine in the game. Three big keys for Hawai’i to get wins this week: rebounding, defense in the paint and keeping turnovers down.
Next week I’ll explain in detail how each win means more than just getting confidence and momentum for the home stretch. The Big West Conference Tournamentis different this year. More teams are in it and from a different perspective, I’ll explain how crucial every remaining game is.
For any video/live stats/radio links for the men’s games, click HERE.
By Tiff Wells:
- Just like on the men’s side, all originally scheduled series for the women went on as planned (UCI at CP, UCR at CSUB, CSF at UH, UCSD at UCD) for the first time this conference season. For UC Davis, it was a 59-day wait (COVID-19 protocol and a Yolo County shutdown). The Aggies’ Princeton-style offense was in mid-season form as in that first game back, UC Davis dropped 80 on UC San Diego AND set program record w/ 17 three-pointers made. The second UCD win over the Tritons gave head coach Jennifer Gross her 100th Big West Conference win, making her the seventh coach in league history with 100 BWC wins. Something interesting here: each of the four series were sweeps. UC Davis won twice at home over UC San Diego, UC Irvine beat Cal Poly twice on the road, UC Riverside won both games at CSU Bakersfield…and our Rainbow Wahine held serve at home twice over Cal State Fullerton.
- With two single-digit losses the week before at CSU Bakersfield, UH needed these two games against winless Cal State Fullerton. The Titans hadn’t won in Honolulu since 1995…they still haven’t after this past weekend. UH led game one 38-15 midway through the third quarter, then had to hold on for a 49-47 victory. The Bows were outrebounded (44-31) for the first time this season. It also marked the first time this season that we knew of an opposing player (Cal State Fullerton’s Amiee Book) not playing due to a head coach’s decision. Game two saw UH lead from start to finish, winning 57-43. In fact, throughout the series, UH only trailed for 31 seconds. In UH’s four conference games, the Rainbow Wahine have held opponents to an average of 51.3 points.
- This weekend marks another first for the Big West Conference. There are five conference matchups slated to take place: Cal Poly at UC Riverside, UC Davis at UC Santa Barbara, Long Beach State at UC San Diego, CSU Bakersfield at Cal State Fullerton and Hawai`i at UC Irvine. How will league-leader Long Beach State play in their series at UC San Diego? The Beach haven’t played since January 9; their January 15-16 series at UC Irvine was cancelled (since rescheduled for March 5-6). Will we have any unbeaten teams left after Friday?…Any unbeatens left after this weekend? Even with the on-going pandemic, it’s a positive sign when there’s a chance for back-to-back weeks with no cancellations.
- UH’s next conference opponent is one of those three remaining unbeatens in the Big West (Long Beach State, UC Irvine and UC Davis) AND has the current conference player of the week. Kayla Williams and UC Irvine (7-5, 4-0) welcome the Rainbow Wahine (3-3, 2-2) for a pair this weekend at The Bren Events Center in Irvine and can each be seen on ESPN3. Each team has won their last three games. The Anteaters currently are in second place, a game behind league-leader Long Beach State. The Rainbow Wahine are tied for fourth-place with UC Riverside. Williams leads UCI in scoring (15.3 ppg), assists (4.8 apg) and steals (2.3spg) and scored 48 points in the two games at Cal Poly last week. 32 of those 48 came in the game two overtime win last Saturday, in which she had seven three-pointers. Even with the Rainbow Wahine holding the Titans to 0-for-10 from three-point range in last Saturday’s game, UH still ranks last in the Big West in 3-point percentage defense as opponents are shooting 40% (46-115) from distance. UCI is 2-3 at home overall, but this is their first conference home game of the season. For UH, they are 0-2 on the road (both losses at CSU Bakersfield) and have dropped their last four conference games on the road dating back to last year. Perhaps this is a close series? Over the last three years in Irvine, UH is 1-2 with all three games decided by a combined total of seven points.
- This past Tuesday, UC Davis’ Sage Stobbard was named to Naismith Women’s Defensive Player of the Year Watch List for the 2020-21 season, as announced by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. The 6’3” junior post player, who is one of 15 women selected to this midseason watch list, is also one of three to play on a mid-major team (Sara Hamson-BYU and Nancy Mulkey-Rice). Since the award’s inception during the 2018-19 season, Stobbard is the second player from the Big West Conference to be named to the list (CSUN’s Channon Fluker made the list for the 2018-19 season). In three games for UC Davis this season, Stobbart is averaging 4.0 blocks per game (this leads the nation) as well as 15.0 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game.
For any video/live stats/radio links for the women’s games, click HERE.
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