By Gary Dickman.
I knew it would happen. At least, I thought it could happen. Of course, I’m talking about the University of Hawaii men’s basketball team. With last weekend’s sweep vs Cal Poly, Hawaii finds themselves in fifth place in the Big West Conference, and only two games out of third place. The ‘Bows have won three in a row, and four out of their last five.
It seems so long ago that this team had a four-game losing streak, and a lot of fans seemed to be writing them off. I know this team isn’t the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but there are some shared similarities. With a lot of new players, it was going to and has taken some time to be playing as a team, to develop chemistry. Tampa Bay lost three out of four games, all at home, before coming together and winning their last eight and that thing called the Super Bowl. I’m not trying to say that UH is going to win a championship, yet. But there was going to be a learning curve, and it’s obvious by watching this team that it’s playing so much better in February than they played most of January.It was important to get the sweep vs Cal Poly, to get to and remain in the top half of the Big West standings. They can’t afford a slip up, an off night vs a bottom team. As I’ve mentioned, neither schedule is very favorable the second half of the season, with only one of the last five teams having a winning record. And that team is coming here this weekend. It’s UC Santa Barbara, with probably the conference player of the year, Amadou Sow, who is 6-9 and can do it all. He can post up, shoot from the outside, or drive into the lane and score from anywhere. The Gauchos are in first place with an 8-2 record, and if that wasn’t impressive enough, they’ve won eight games in a row. They lost twice the first week of league play, back in late December vs Irvine. Since then, they’re undefeated in 2021.
I’ll take a split right now and be happy. We should all be happy if that happens. Did I mention that Santa Barbara has won eight games in a row? If UH can get this split, and hopefully have no more than one flat game, they could go 9-2 over this stretch, and remember, they’re 3-0 already. Even if they lose an extra game over the last six, they’d be 10-8 at the end of this season. Not great, but from 1-4 three weeks ago, it would be quite an accomplishment.
Here’s my main concern now. Maybe the most important player is someone who hasn’t played in a while. There are only 11 players in uniform every game now, and only three of them are what we call “bigs.” Those are the forwards and centers. Bernardo Da Silva has been out most of the season. He is really needed now. Last Saturday vs Cal Poly, both Mate Colina and James Jean-Marie had four fouls with more than five minutes left in the game. Only Colina fouled out, but it showed how vulnerable this team could be if the bigs get in foul trouble or get hurt. Right now, they don’t really have a backup. I’ve been told Bernardo could be back soon, and even if he’s not 100 percent he could just fill minutes and give others some time to rest and stay out of foul trouble.
A big congratulations to Big West Player of the Week, Justin Webster. J-Web had Tom Brady-like numbers, shooting 13 of 15 from the field (8 of 9 on three-pointers) in this past weekend’s two wins. He’s easily the MVP so far on this team, and is probably going to be an All-Big West First Team player. He’s taken over in games this year where he just takes the team on his back and carries them for stretches. And the best part: He’ll still be a sophomore next season.
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