By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
It’s hard to believe, but the 2020-21 college basketball regular season is already drawing to a close. It’s been quite the roller-coaster ride for most NCAA teams, including the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. At one point last year, no one was sure there would even be a season. The Rainbow Warriors faced a few imposing challenges early on, including Samuta Avea opting out and an injury to promising sophomore Bernardo da Silva. The team put together a few statement-making wins, but also suffered some tough defeats.
But now, with just two games remaining before the Big West Tournament, there are signs UH just may be peaking at the right time. Here are a few quick takes on the state of the Rainbow Warriors:
♦ I was concerned that leading scorer Justin Webster (12.4 points per game) might have fallen into a slump after returning from an illness that kept him out of the Feb. 20 contest at CSUN. Against Long Beach State on Friday, J-Web didn’t even attempt a shot until 5:57 left in the first half. But he finished with 16 points to lead the ’Bows to a thrilling 78-76 comeback win. The next night, he contributed 14 points as UH again beat the 49ers, 79-76. The really impressive thing about Webster this season is his willingness to take the ball to the hoop aggressively. The sophomore co-captain is much more than a spot-up three-point shooter.
♦ It took a while, but point guard JoVon McClanahan finally had his breakout game in a UH uniform, scoring a season-high 13 points (5-8 from the field) against LBSU on Friday. He followed that up with an 8-point effort on Saturday. He looked confident and assertive in both games. If he can continue to be aggressive and look for his shot, McClanahan can be another weapon for UH just when the team needs it most.
♦ Hawaii has four players who are averaging double figures in scoring: Webster, James Jean-Marie (12.3), Casdon Jardine (11.6) and Junior Madut (10.6). This team is more balanced than past UH teams – last year’s squad featured only two double-digit scorers in Eddie Stansberry and Avea – and if the “big four” ever put together a complete game together, the Rainbow Warriors can beat anyone in the conference.
♦ The Rainbow Warriors still go through prolonged scoring droughts. They can’t afford that when the tournament starts. Neither can they afford giving up big leads like they did on Saturday, when the 49ers were one three-point shot at the buzzer from sending the game into overtime. Of particular concern is the team’s ability to handle the full-court press. As head coach Eran Ganot stated after Saturday’s win, the team still has a few things to “clean up.”
♦ The bottom line: Hawaii is now 8-8 in the Big West (10-8 overall) and is alone in sixth place. A victory against UC Davis (5-3 in BW play) on Friday or Saturday will guarantee the Rainbow Warriors a berth in the BW Tournament quarterfinals. Should UH finish out of the top six, they will have to compete in a play-in game to advance to the quarterfinals. ESPN Honolulu will bring you both games against the Aggies, with Josh Pacheco calling the action.
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