Hawaii basketball teams lick wounds

Drew Buggs winced after coming down awkwardly on his right leg in the first half at Cal Poly. / Photo by Owen Main, Special to the Star-Advertiser

Taken in concert, that was a wallop of a week for the Hawaii men’s and women’s basketball teams.

The Rainbow Warriors and Rainbow Wahine entered it with identical 7-4 records in the Big West Conference. In the case of the Warriors, that was good for third place, behind only UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton, with five games to play. In the case of the Wahine, it was even better — good for a tie for second place with Cal State Northridge, excellent position to be in for a bye or two in the Big West tournament.

The Wahine were coming off rousing home wins over UC Santa Barbara and Long Beach State, and had positioned themselves for a three-game homestand sweep. The Warriors had blown out UC Riverside and Cal Poly in consecutive games at the Sheriff knowing they had a challenging trip coming, logistically and competitively (at least on the front end) to UCSB and Cal Poly.

Alas. The two teams still sport identical Big West records, but for the wrong reasons (7-6). That’s not where they hoped to be with both facing two road games in their last three before tournament time.

It all shifted without warning Tuesday with the announcement that Wahine junior forward Makenna Woodfolk was leaving the program immediately because she is pregnant. UH played hard Thursday in a winnable game against UC Irvine but came up a little short in some key areas, notably ball control and late shot selection. Would Woodfolk have made the difference in what was a 53-48 loss? It’s possible.

Rainbow Wahine forward Kenna Woodfolk, seen here in November against American, scored a team-high 19 points in an upset of UC Davis for UH’s first Big West win of the season on Jan. 12. / Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell, Star-Advertiser

The Wahine were then asked by the Big West to fly up to UC Davis for a Saturday afternoon game — patently ridiculous under the best of circumstances — and predictably got steamrolled by the first-place Aggies, 72-46.

UH (11-15 overall) is now in fifth, on the outside looking in at the teams with projected tournament byes (Davis, CSUN, UC Riverside and Irvine). If they cannot move up, the Wahine will be asked to win four times in five days in order to win the tourney.

Coach Laura Beeman would not blame the travel but spoke about fractured team chemistry — “a missing puzzle piece” — after both games in a whirlwind handful of days following Woodfolk’s abrupt exit.

“Absolutely,” she said of chemistry as the immediate focus. “Sit down and watch some film, talk some things through. And yes, really work the chemistry. That’s the big thing.”

As for Eran Ganot’s ‘Bows, it was going to be a tough ask for them to come away with a win at UCSB, a team that won by 21 in Honolulu while outdoing UH in pretty much all facets. However, you could’ve expected the rematch to be a little more competitive, and for the ‘Bows to get a better handle on freshman forward Amadou Sow and guard Max Heidegger.

Heidegger was kept under wraps, but Sow wasn’t — he nearly went for 20 and 10 again — and the Gauchos’ talented complementary players like Armond Davis, Devearl Ramsey and JaQuori McLaughlin went off in what was basically another 20-point blowout, 79-61.

The Cal Poly back-ender was the designated opportunity to salvage something and stop the bleeding. The Mustangs entered the game at 5-19 overall and 1-10 in the Big West — clearly the worst team in the league, a team Hawaii spanked by 21 in Honolulu. Well, Mustangs guard Donovan Fields was allowed to go off and, compounding matters, UH point guard Drew Buggs landed awkwardly on his right ankle with under five minutes left in the first half. He did not return. UH made a go of it in the second half but could not slow the ‘Stangs in an 88-80 defeat.

Drew Buggs watched the second half with his right ankle on ice and crutches by his side. / Photo by Owen Main, Special to the Star-Advertiser

If Buggs and his nine points and five assists per game cannot return for senior night or beyond, that is a huge loss — even given how well Brocke Stepteau played offensively at Mott Gym as the primary point guard (11 points, 11 rebounds, no turnovers). An extended absence by Buggs would have a huge domino effect on the guard rotation.

Seeding doesn’t matter quite as much in the men’s tournament as the women’s. No byes are in play. UH (16-11 overall) is in fourth at the moment, with UC Davis (6-6) just behind in fifth. Even if those two flip-flopped over the next two games, they’d still face each other in the opening round. At this point the biggest thing for the Rainbows is getting healthy and avoiding UCSB in the first round.

That said, you don’t want to be losing to teams of Cal Poly’s caliber — Buggs or no Buggs — knowing a loss in a couple weeks means you’re done for good.

The good news for both teams is they have a solid week apiece to regroup. They have byes during the week then host Cal State Fullerton (women) and CSUN (men) on a double senior night Saturday.

Time to lick the wounds.


  1. Hoosier February 25, 2019 8:01 am

    Consistently inconsistent. Need to dig deep to avoid 5 game losing streak going into Big West tourney. Looks like 6 place prediction was spot on. Definitely disappointing week. Senior night will be interesting to see what team shows up.

  2. Matt February 26, 2019 8:38 am

    There is just no margin of error for the MBB and WBB programs. I mean, sure, the WBB is already assured a spot in the BWC, but the question is how much can they hold on? We could be seeing for the 3rd time, a 12-18 season under Coach B, and that was after they have had a few losing streaks during non-conference. But that Cal Poly loss…so shameful. I don’t know what’s with Coach Ganot’s Bows losing to teams in the bottom of the conference, but seriously…this has to be stopped. We cannot have another 8-8 record, especially after last year, where we humiliated D1 basketball by splitting all of our conference matches and finished in 6th place. This CANNOT happen! Both programs better not give the fans a sour senior night, not after last year where they both lost.

    #BigWestPositioning #NoMore8-8Records #NoMoreBadLosses

  3. Warrior Lifer February 26, 2019 9:56 am

    Any info on Buggs injury and if he’s expected to miss any games? Would be a big loss if he was to miss any games leading up to or during the Big West Tourney. His offensive skillset is key to Hawaii’s success, and he’s been matching up on defense with the other team’s best guards.

  4. RonP February 26, 2019 10:35 am

    Is the honeymoon over for coach Ganot? He inherited a really good team and went to the second round of the NCAAs. Now we are seeing what his recruiting results are–not great or even very good. He seems to be very good with Xs and Os, but he has to expand his recruiting of big men to the type that killed us against UCSB. I would rather see 6:9, 250-260 lbs. banging for rebounds and dunks that 7 footers that are soft and have a vertical leap of 6 inches. Remember North Texas loss by 17? Same type of physical team. We don’t match up well with our type of big men. And will someone teach Raimo to bank off the square on the backboard behind the rim to almost guarantee it will go in the hole.

Comments are closed.