By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
This one hurt. If the University of Hawaii men’s basketball team finishes out of the top six in the Big West nt Conference standings and is forced into a play-in game in the conference tournament, they could point to yesterday’s 88-80 overtime loss to CSUN as a big reason why. Here are some quick reactions to this weekend’s road split with the Matadors:
♦ At one point in the first half yesterday, UH had a 23-point lead. At the time, I knew that kind of lead wouldn’t last for long. It was too early in the game, and CSUN was bound to make a run. But to actually wind up losing the game? The Rainbow Warriors need to do some soul searching and figure out a way to finish games. Giving up leads was a problem earlier on in the season, and yesterday it bit them in their collective butts.
♦ Most alarmingly, Hawaii’s defense failed them when they needed it most. The Matadors’ TJ Starks lit up Hawaii for 59 points in the two games. The transfer from Texas A&M is a terrific scorer, armed with a deadly three-point shot and strong moves to the hoop, but UH made him look like James Harden at times. Junior Madut did what he could, but a lot of times he had no support from his teammates in the paint. CSUN’s Darius Brown was also unstoppable, producing a triple-double against UH yesterday (18 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists).
♦ While I’m not going to pin yesterday’s loss on the absence of leading scorer and co-captain Justin Webster – remember, Hawaii was up 23 in the first half – let’s hope the sophomore wing will be able to return soon. Hawaii will need his leadership and grit as the season enters its final stretch.
♦ We shouldn’t forget that the Rainbow Warriors did beat CSUN on Friday, so it wasn’t a totally lost weekend. And several players performed well in both games, especially Biwali Bayles (27 points, 9 rebounds), Casdon Jardine (32 points, 14 rebounds), Noel Coleman (26 points) and Madut (34 points, 13 rebounds). Five UH players scored in double figures on Friday, and four were in double figures yesterday.
♦ The Rainbow Warriors now return to Honolulu for their final homestand of the season. They will host along Beach State on Friday and Saturday.
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