The Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic has a way of revealing a team’s shortcomings over a four-day period of the holidays. A Christmas crucible, if you will.
Consider the Rainbow Warriors’ second-half woes exposed.
UH finished sixth place (1-2) in its signature eight-team event, with ill-timed lapses after intermission the deciding factor in losses to then-No. 6 Miami in the first round, then Princeton in the fifth-place game on Christmas Day. UH was tied at the half in both games.
It was a disappointing turn of events with only a home game against Howard (3-12) this Friday remaining before Big West play begins on the road. The Rainbows coaches and players owned up to the fact they did not handle the lapses well — leading to further turnovers and missed free throws — especially late against the Ivy League team.
UH’s two point guards tried to put all that in perspective on Wednesday.
“I think the biggest takeaway is that we have a lot of potential,” Brocke Stepteau said. “We played Miami tough for a half and we played Princeton well for a half. We played pretty consistently against Davidson, but we haven’t had a full, consistent game throughout the season so far. So I think that’s what we need to work on. Just working on having two good halves so we can win all the games we feel like we’re capable of winning. So that’s probably the biggest takeaway.”
Said Drew Buggs: I think it’s just sometimes, teams make adjustments and we have to make counter-adjustments. Learn how to find ways to score when they take away our first or second option. Just find ways to continue to defend maybe when we’re in that offensive slump that all teams face. We just have to learn how to adjust.”
Overall, it was a great tournament, with several last-possession scores deciding outcomes spread across the three days of competition. That included the championship game, with Bennie “Buckets” Boatwright sinking a deep 3 with 4.1 seconds left to lift USC over New Mexico State.
BENNIE BOATWRIGHT ON TIME. NMSU has 4.1 seconds to respond. pic.twitter.com/wsYvISeonR
— Brian McInnis (@Brian_McInnis) December 26, 2017
There were no bad teams in this field. Akron led USC at halftime and came within a Princeton buzzer beater of winning in the consolation semifinal. Davidson missed a potential game-winning 3 at the buzzer of its first-round matchup with NMSU. Middle Tennessee, a high-RPI team, could’ve topped both USC and Miami before faltering late. MTSU edged Princeton on Day 1. It really was a free for all.
USC survived it, overcoming considerable adversity on the way into Honolulu when you factor in its loss of a player to ineligibility recently (De’Anthony Melton) and assistant coach Tony Bland in the preseason because of the ongoing FBI investigation, plus a smattering of injuries to key players. There was a loss to fellow DHC participant Princeton at the Galen Center just before leaving for Honolulu (they did not meet again in the DHC).
The all-tournament team was:
Bennie Boatwright, USC (MVP)
Chimezie Metu, USC
Zach Lofton, New Mexico State
Jemerrio Jones, New Mexico State
Dewan Huell, Miami
Year 10 of the event looks, right now, like it could be one of the strongest fields to date. TCU — currently unbeaten and No. 10 — to go with resurgent UNLV, plus Rhode Island, Colorado, Saint Mary’s, Indiana State, and Charlotte.
Here’s UH’s complete results in the nine years of the DHC. UH is now 14-13, though that gets knocked down to 11-13 if you count the three vacated outcomes of the Arnold era. UH has played the eventual tournament champion once — Oklahoma in 2015.
>> 2009, 4th: College of Charleston, 84-71 W; UNLV, 77-53 L; Saint Mary’s, 84-75 L. Champion: USC
>> 2010, 5th: Florida State, 70-62 L; Utah, 68-55 W; Mississippi State, 68-57 W. Champion: Butler
>> 2011, 5th: Auburn, 65-62 L; No. 14 Xavier, 84-82 OT W; Clemson, 75-68 W. Champion: Kansas State
>> 2012, 6th: Miami, 73-58 L; East Tennessee State, 84-61 W; Ole Miss, 81-66 L. Champion: Arizona
>> 2013, 5th: Boise State, 62-61 L; Saint Mary’s, 76-74 W; Oregon State, 79-73 W. Champion: Iowa State
>> 2014, 3rd: Nebraska, 66-58 W; No. 11 Wichita State, 80-79 OT L; Colorado, 69-66 W. Champion: George Washington
>> 2015, 3rd: Northern Iowa, 68-52 W; No. 3 Oklahoma, 84-81 L; Auburn, 79-67 W. Champion: Oklahoma
>> 2016, 7th: Illinois State, 71-45 L; Utah, 66-52 L; Southern Miss, 60-46 W. Champion: San Diego State
>> 2017, 6th: No. 6 Miami, 75-57 L; Davidson, 79-71 W; Princeton, 77-63 L. Champion: USC