The bench was emptied and the behemoths stepped forth with giant strides.
Hawaii, for the first time this young season, played all three of its 7-foot freshmen on Saturday night. Two of them — Mate Colina and Dawson Carper — appeared before the game was decided, while the third, Owen Hulland, got his first action of the 2018-19 season in the final few minutes of UH’s 90-54 blowout of Division II Humboldt State to improve to 2-0.
“They played tremendously,” guard Eddie Stansberry said. “Even for Owen, the small stretch he was able to get in and play, it was a great look to see him out there.”
Colina, the most seasoned of the three thanks to his redshirting last spring, scored in double figures for the first time, 10 points on 3-for-5 shooting from the field and 4-for-4 from the line in 13 minutes off the bench.
The Aussie put down a rim-rattling dunk for a 65-38 lead with 11:40 to play and yelled in exultation.
Carper, the heaviest of the three at 250 pounds, appeared late in each half for seven minutes total. He scored a point on 1-for-4 shooting from the line, although he showcased a pretty smooth shooting stroke. He snared a couple of boards and even had a nice assist to Brandon Thomas for a three-point play.
Hulland, who missed three weeks of the preseason with an injury, got in for the last four minutes and didn’t get off a shot, but he blocked one put up by the ‘Jacks.
Stansberry and point guard Drew Buggs were asked afterward what impact the young bigs have when they check in to relieve starting forwards Jack Purchase and Zigmars Raimo.
“It means a lot. We can throw it inside and play off of them,” Buggs said. “They’re really good screeners as well. Anytime they’re in the game, we like to get in a lot of ball screens so they can set good screens and roll and get in spots where they can catch and make finishes. And they’re really good at that and they’re going to keep improving.”
Added Stansberry, “Having guys like them be in the game really helps us on the perimeter. We throw the ball in to them, you’ve got defenses collapsing, it just creates open spots for us … they make the game a lot easier for us. At the same time, they’re dominant too, so we trust (them) taking shots as much as throwing the ball in there.”
It will be interesting to see how the 7-footers fare against North Texas (3-0) at 6 p.m. Sunday for the Rainbow Classic championship. The Mean Green are the most athletic team UH has faced so far.
The game’s most dramatic moment came on a hard foul by Humboldt’s LJ Williams applied on Raimo in the second half with the game already decided. Williams then appeared to kick Raimo while the two tumbled to the ground.
Ganot immediately yelled at the officials to eject Williams, in one of the most animated moments to date for the usually mild-mannered coach. The refs looked at the replay monitors and indeed chose to eject the player, assessing Williams a personal foul and a dead-ball technical.
“Unfortunately, I actually had a really good look,” Ganot said. “So, I think I knew what they’d see on the replay because I had as good a look as you could have. Naturally, I think your emotions get in there when you see that happen to one of your guys. We’ll always fight for our guys. But I’m glad everybody’s OK and we’re moving on.”
Ganot said there were no hard feelings and that he respects the Lumberjacks’ program.
Humboldt State was a late fill-in to complete the four-team Rainbow Classic field when another team pulled out in the offseason. The Lumberjacks only played two games — North Texas and Hawaii — because Portland of the West Coast Conference cannot play more than one non-Division I team in a season, per WCC rules.
It made for a less-than-ideal field, even for a 54-year event that’s diminished severely in its quality of opponents since going to a four-team round-robin event in 2009. Realistically, only UH and UNT were competing for the championship coming in, and that’s the way it played out. Saturday night’s crowd between UH and Humboldt was a sparse one, 2,823 through the turnstiles.
Ganot was asked postgame if he’d like to avoid future situations of having to bring in mainland Division II teams to fill things out.
“I think you see with our scheduling philosophy, look, a couple things are fact. Our nonconference strength of schedule, which is all we can control, has gone up every single year,” he said. “And the last two years have been two of our best nonconference strength of schedules in the last 10 years. To answer your question, we’re trying to get ahead. We’re close to finishing next year’s Rainbow already, OK, and we’d like to get that done here soon. So there’s a lot of things we’re doing to work on future years early. So to answer your question, you don’t want to be in a scramble late. We had a late exit and we have to scramble late. That’s unfortunate, and that starts with me. I can’t put us in those positions. The fortunate thing is, we’re learning from it. We’ve already announced a game for 2020 with North Carolina. We already have some teams locked up that we’ll announce eventually as well. We’re going to continue to put ourselves in position, just like our guys, we’re not different. We’ve gotta learn and grow. But Humboldt, like I said, appreciate and respect for their head coach (Steve Kinder) and their staff to make this work for this year. But we won’t put ourselves in that situation in the future.”
UPDATE: Here’s what Humboldt State coach Steve Kinder said about his team’s two-game trip out here:
“We take away a lot. The experience to play in a great facility like this, a great arena, in front of a tradition like the University of Hawaii basketball is a special treat for a program like ourselves at Humboldt State. Our takeaway is we look across the bench and we see the opponents executing, playing hard every possession, sharing the ball each possession in a selfless manner. We take that away. We really appreciate the opportunity University of Hawaii athletics gave us to come out here.”