To defend its present position in the Big West Conference, the Hawaii basketball team will have to find a way to defend, and do it in hostile territory.
It’s no secret that defense has been the Rainbow Warriors’ greatest shortcoming over their three-game losing streak. Over that span, UH has given up 83.7 points per game and .514 (92-for-179) field-goal shooting in road losses to UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly, and Cal State Northridge on senior night on Saturday.
Fresh on the team’s mind had to be CSUN’s two stars, forward Lamine Diane and guard Terrell Gomez, going for a combined for 57 points.
“A lot’s at stake,” UH coach Eran Ganot said before boarding the team bus Tuesday.
“There’s times where there’s times during the course of the season where it’s not so glaring, but it’s really glaring right now,” he said. “We’ve gotta be better defensively. Especially when we’re No. 1 in many categories in our league. So why have we been inconsistent? Because of the defensive end. That being said, we’ve got to continue to excel offensively.”
UH (16-12, 7-7 Big West) was tied for third in the standings at one point, and actually hasn’t dropped much on paper — into a three-way tie for fourth. But the Rainbows will have to rally up, and fast, if they want to stay there while playing on the mainland the rest of the way.
UC Davis, Thursday’s opponent that UH beat by 20 in Honolulu, is always tough to beat at The Pavilion and is coming off a seven-point home win over Cal State Fullerton. And before that loss, Fullerton had won 10 of 12 since an 0-2 BWC start, including the 79-68 BWC-opening loss at the Stan Sheriff Center.
“Davis is really tough at home,” said point guard Drew Buggs, who had one of his better games (12 points, 12 assists) against Davis in an 80-60 win on Jan. 26. “I’m just expecting a battle, because since then they’ve been playing a lot (better), and we’re tied in the conference standings. It’s going to be a battle. Everybody wants to get this win. Everybody wants momentum heading into the conference tournament. So we just gotta be locked in and ready to go.”
Here are the basic scenarios this week:
>> IF UH wins twice, improving to 9-7: UH is the 3 seed if UC Santa Barbara loses at CSUN and at Cal Poly, and if CSUN then loses at UC Irvine; UH is the 4 seed if UCSB beats CSUN, or if CSUN beats UCSB but the Matadors then lose at UC Irvine; UH is the 5 seed if CSUN wins against UCSB and at UC Irvine, and if UCSB wins against Cal Poly.
>> IF UH goes 1-1, moving to 8-8: Up to five teams could be tied at 8-8, in which case it’s sorted by a team’s total record against everyone else in that group. That team with the best record in the pile is given the top seed among that group, removed from the pile, and the process is repeated for the next four teams, the next three, and so on. If UH beats UC Davis, UH would be 5-1 against a theoretical 8-8 grouping that includes Davis, CSUN and Long Beach State, and would take the 4 seed. If UCSB drops to 8-8, or if UH loses to Davis and beats Fullerton to get to 8-8, it gets a lot murkier, and the 5 or 6 seed is in play for the ‘Bows.
>> IF UH goes 0-2, dropping to 7-9: UH could be looking at tiebreaker scenarios with CSUN and Long Beach State (which the ‘Bows would actually win). If it is all three at 7-9, UH is the 5 seed. If it is UH and LBSU or UH and CSUN, UH is the 6 seed. Or, if CSUN and LBSU both win a game (CSUN is at home against UCSB and at UC Irvine, and Long Beach is at home against UC Riverside) UH will be by itself at 7.