It’s conference basketball season! And for both the Rainbow Warriors and 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 nine of conference play. Gary Dickman looks at the men’s side, while Tiff Wells features the women’s side.
Well, last week didn’t go as planned for the UH Men’s basketball team. Thanks to the sweep by UC Santa Barbara, it was the worst case scenario.
- All is not lost. Not at all. However, things just got a lot more interesting. Instead of looking at teams ahead of them in the standings, UH must look at their final three opponents and realize that all four teams are within one game of each other in the Big West Conference standings. Here’s one way to look at it: Hawaii controls its own destiny…for the most part. Though not officially, UH will not finish in the top four of the regular season standings. For example, if UH goes 4-2 over the last 6, UC Riverside would have to go 1-3 and then they’d be tied for fourth. UCR plays the following teams twice each: UC Santa Barbara and CSUN. It’s possible that that scenario could happen, but let’s assume it doesn’t. UH then has a chance to finish anywhere between fifth and ninth place. Right now, the difference between those five teams is only one game.
- I just wrote about the big picture of the conference, comparing with other schools and how close they all are. Now we focus on our team. Hawaii has four games on the road: this week at CSUN, then March 5 and 6 at UC Davis. The Aggies have now won three in a row and are ahead of UH in the standings. The remaining home series for UH is next week Friday and Saturday (February 26 and 27) versus Long Beach State. By the way, I wonder what senior night will look like? The big story line here is that every time UH wins a game against any of these three opponents, they create more separation in the standings than in most games. At 5-7, Hawaii is only ahead of CSUN by percentage points. The Matadors are at 3-5. If UH sweeps the Matadors, they’ll be 7-7 and CSUN would be 3-7. That would leave UH up by two games with four left. They would also own the tiebreaker. A split doesn’t do much for UH, but a sweep would go a long way in keeping them in the top six and thus, avoiding the play-in round of the Big West Conference Tournament.
- How does a college player shrink four inches in two weeks? Such is the case with Mate Colina. From the beginning of the season up until the last two weekend series, he’s been listed at 7’0”. Now, he is listed at 6’8”. I’ve heard about players losing weight during a season, but never height. That’s a new one. To me, Mate is the second most valuable/consistent player on this team, only behind Justin Webster. He doesn’t score a lot, but he doesn’t shoot a lot, either. Mate hustles more than anyone on this team. You see him dive on the floor, he takes charges, he does a lot of things that won’t show up in the box score. In the past, when UH didn’t have much frontcourt height, Hawaii would often get dominated by a big post player. UH has that physical presence in Colina. My main concern now is the lack of post depth. We know nothing new on Bernardo da Silva. We hope he’ll come back, but time’s running out. Let’s hope for the best and, more so, hope that our bigs can stay healthy and out of foul trouble.
- For Hawaii to win in March, a lot must go right. Everyone must be on their A-game. An off night in March usually results in an earlier beginning to the Spring Break season for college basketball players. Even though UH was swept last week, I thought James Jean-Marie had two good performances. Both games saw him come off the bench and score in double figures each time. That will be a key to advancing in March. There must be a consistent second scorer behind Justin Webster. It’s either Jean-Marie or Casdon Jardine. They are both capable of being that second scorer, but both are inconsistent.
- I know some fans don’t like to take or find positives from a loss. At the end of the day, it’s still a loss. There are no moral victories here. I get that. To me, there can be exceptions. What we saw on Saturday night was a team that would not give up…again. And it almost worked. Three weeks ago, an undefeated UC Irvine team came here and was very lucky and fortunate to leave with a split. UC Santa Barbara has now won 10 in a row and in game two, they were up by 15 over UH with about 6-7 minutes left. Now, I know every fan was ecstatic that Hawaii came back and forced overtime. Not me. I joked all day that this game better not go into overtime. The game was a 5 p.m. start when the schedule came out. This was a perfect opportunity for me to take some vacation days over a long weekend and go to Las Vegas, where I am writing this right now. I did fear the time of the game could change, and it did…two days before game day. Back to a 7:00 p.m. tip off. UC Santa Barbara decided to spend the night in Honolulu instead of going back home. There is still the pandemic going around, they never should have stayed an extra night…especially when I had an 11:30 p.m. flight out of town. And remember, I host the “Fan’s Voice” after every home game, which usually runs about 40-45 minutes. Even with that time change, I thought I was prepared and good to go. I was packed and ready to go. All I had to do was leave my house by 10:15 p.m. at the latest. But UH had other plans…for themselves and for me. Luckily, I did make the flight. Those lights all looked yellow to me as I drove to the airport. I do really admire when teams play smart and when they don’t quit or give up. A few weeks ago against UC Irvine it resulted in a win. This past Saturday against UCSB, it almost happened again. If this situation happens in March, I’m confident that the Rainbow Warriors will be ready to close it out.
For any video/live stats/radio links for the men’s games, click here:
- The Rainbow Wahine rarely have back-to-back conference weekends on the road, but nothing is unusual about this 2020-21 pandemic season. Game one at UC Santa Barbara was good to UH for three quarters. They scored 20 or more points in each of them. From a UH standpoint, quarter two was the one to forget. A total of three points led to an 8-point halftime deficit for the Bows. Led by Kasey Neubert’s first career double-double (19 points, career high 15 rebounds), UH outscored the Gauchos 45-27 to win 72-62. For just the second time this season, UH won two-straight games. Freshman Daejah Phillips was efficient from the field, going 8-for-11 for 19 points. And we cannot forget about the maestro of the offense, Kelsie Imai. A career-high 10 assists for her. Not known for their inside scoring, UH put up 40 of their 72 points from the paint. For all this road trip entailed, UH had a shot to go 3-1 on this 12-day, 4-game road trip.
- There always seems to be that one quarter where it doesn’t quite come together for UH. Game 1 at UC Santa Barbara it was quarter two (outscored 17-3, shot 1-of-12 from the field). In the second game versus UCSB, it was the third quarter (outscored 27-6, shot 3-of-17 from the field). UH was already down by six at half (35-29). A 27-to-6 scoring advantage in the third quarter was too much for Hawaii as they trailed 62-35. Any shot at a 3-1 road trip was gone after this quarter. Losing to a team that had lost their last six games overall, were winless at home (0-8) and were just 2-12 overall, that was tough. Especially because when you look at what UH has remaining (two-loss Long Beach State and unbeaten UC Davis), this was a game the Rainbow Wahine needed in terms of certainly avoiding the play-in game. Can UH avoid the 8-seed for the Big West Conference Tournament? Only time will tell over the last three weeks of the regular season.
- A bye couldn’t have come at a better time for the Rainbow Wahine. Four games in 12 days on the road was tough. Playing back-to-backs have been daunting for teams and more often than not, conditioning comes into play too. With UH’s active roster at just 12, many of the freshmen have been thrown into rotation and getting a lot of minutes over the last few games. Hope International transfer (and Maryknoll alumna) Dakota Viena has seen more court time and even freshman walk on Kylie Yung (‘Iolani alumna) scored her first points in the second UCSB game. That rotation took a big hit when Amy Atwell left game two of the UCSB series after being knocked down when going for a loose ball. She only played 15 minutes in that game, not scoring any points. UH needs a healthy Amy Atwell moving forward. This bye week will give her and the team much needed rest as they gear up for the final four games of the regular season. Hawai`i arguably has the toughest remaining stretch to end the regular season: at Long Beach State and hosting UC Davis. Entering this week, the Aggies and The Beach have a combined conference record of 16-2. Those two losses by LBSU were at the hands of UC Davis last week.
- As we said last week, arguably the series of the year took place last week in Long Beach between UC Davis and LBSU. It had the makings of a great weekend series. Two undefeated teams with two of the top players in the conference. It was anything but a good series as it was dominated by the visiting Aggies. Both games were double-digit victories for UC Davis. UCD’s Cierra Hall made a case for Player of the Year honors as she outplayed Long Beach State’s Jasmine Hardy, the reigning conference Player of the Week. In game one, Hall scored 17 points and pulled down eight rebounds in the 67-52 win. Hall then scored 20 points, grabbed seven rebounds, had six steals and six assists in the 67-50 game two win. More importantly, the Aggies now hold a 2-game lead atop the conference standings (with the tiebreaker over LBSU and as of right now, no rescheduling of their cancelled UC Irvine series is in the future). As of Wednesday morning, the Aggies are off this week (also on a bye is UH). They then host Cal Poly the following week and end the regular season here in Honolulu.
- No team is winless in conference play. That’s because in game two of the Cal Poly/Cal State Fullerton series, the Titans shocked the visiting Mustangs with a 65-49 victory. This snapped a seven-game losing streak, as well as a 15-game losing streak against Division I competition dating back to last season. In fact, it’s their first win over a Division I school since March 10 of last year (a 67-52 win against CSUN in the First Round of the Big West Conference Tournament). The Titans played very well in the first game of the series, a 70-65 overtime loss. Adjustments were made as the Titans rolled in game two, winning 65-49. I’m unsure what’s more impressive. The fact that Cal State Fullerton did this without the services of their best player, sharpshooter Amiee Book (who hasn’t played since game two of the Hawaii series on January 23rd). Or the fact that their defense (which normally gives up about 70 points per game) allowed just 49 to Cal Poly (second lowest point total for the Mustangs this season) and held the conference’s leading scorer (Abbey Ellis, averages 19.1 points per game) to a season-low/career tying low two points on just four shots in just 17 minutes of action.
For any video/live stats/radio links for the women’s games, click here:
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