By Brian McInnis
Hawaii's opponent in its season opener tonight at 11 p.m. might be one of the more unique foes UH faces all season. Cal State Northridge is young (the youngest in Division I basketball), guard-oriented, and unorthodox with its defense.
UH coach Gib Arnold, who took scout duties himself for this opponent, had plenty to prepare for based on his knowledge of 16-year CSUN head coach Bobby Braswell.
"I'm expecting a lot of fullcourt pressure, both in the man-to-man and run-and-jump, a 2-2-1 fullcourt. They like to mix that up. We'll expect pressure the entire game. They'll fall back into man-to-man, they'll fall back into a 2-3. They'll fall back into a 1-3-1, but in the halfcourt and extended to three-quarter court. You gotta be prepared for all of that different stuff. In the past, he's also triangle-and-2'd and box-and-1'd.
"He'll throw everything at you and whatever sticks, he'll kind of stay with it and might come back with it later in the game," Arnold continued. "That's kind of what his reputation is and I've known Coach Braswell and that team for a long time. It's a really tough first game for us."
CSUN led at USC by four points with only minutes to go on Friday, but couldn't hold on in a 66-59 loss. UH, mindful of that, spent considerable time going against various defenses with its scout team.
"I think we went over almost any type of defense," junior forward Hauns Brereton said with a laugh. "I mean, 2-3s, 1-3-1s, traps, fullcourt man-to-man pressure, we've been working on everything. We're definitely ready for whatever comes our way. Now it's just up to our execution."
For those wondering why junior forward Joston Thomas didn't have a bigger say in UH's 62-56 exhibition win over HPU on Friday, it seems he's moving toward a more prominent role off the bench, if not a starting job again. Thomas wore a white jersey in Sunday night's practice (a first in weeks), signifying a return to the first team.
A fun fact about tonight's ESPN College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon: Brereton played against UH two years ago in the second edition of the now-annual event.
Brereton, then of Northern Colorado, remembered the atmosphere pretty well. He had a steal and a rebound in nine minutes in the Bears' 81-75 win over the Bob Nash-led 'Bows.
"Flying in, and then playing late, and against the crowd, it's home court advantage," Brereton said. "For the other team, it's going to be rough, but then again, for a basketball player, that makes you want to bring it. All the odds are against you and you just want to prove everybody wrong. So I know (today) is going to be a tough game."
Brereton said his brothers would tune in in the early morning on the mainland, and that he'd have about 15 members of his local family in attendance.
UH is 2-1 in Tip-Off Marathon games, with a loss to Northern Colorado and wins over Idaho State and Central Michigan.
This is the first time, however, that the game doubled as UH's regular-season opener.
"This is when it starts to count. This is why we had the exhibition," Brereton said. "This is what we look forward to. This is why we play ball. Growing up watching NCAA college basketball."