Archive for December, 2011

What a game

December 24th, 2011
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Wow. What else can you say after that one?

Hawaii looked like it might pull a repeat of Thursday night's heartbreaker against Auburn — trailing all the way, and nearly coming back at the finish only to fall short. But this time the Rainbow Warriors had enough juice to rally from 15 points down and finish the job against No. 14 Xavier, resulting in an 84-82 stunner in overtime.

Joston Thomas had the game-winning basket off a baseline take to cap off his superb night (career-high 24 points, 8-for-11 shooting, nine rebounds). And give credit to Zane Johnson, who stuck with it through a slow shooting start (2-for-9 at one point) to finish with 14 and five assists, including the game-winning dish to Thomas.

Vander Joaquim gathered himself after picking up an early taunting technical to finish with a season-high 20 points.

All of that was great, but Hauns Brereton's amazing double-clutch shot to tie it at 77 with 2 seconds left in regulation will probably be what everyone will remember most. I know I won't be forgetting that anytime soon. The fact that it was Brereton who hit that, given his immense struggles from long range this season, made it even sweeter for UH.

I didn't mention this in my story for Saturday's newspaper, but Gib Arnold's decision to put Joaquim on the Xavier inbounds man after Brereton's shot may have been very important. Xavier had 2 seconds left in regulation to score a winner, but the inbounds man turned over the ball moving on the baseline first, likely thanks in part to Joaquim's pressure. (As you might recall, UH did not cover the inbounder on the play that produced Auburn's game-winning dunk in transition the night before). UH had a chance to do something under Xavier's basket with 2 seconds left, but Thomas had the ball slapped away before he got a shot off.

Guards Miah Ostrowski, Garrett Jefferson and Bobby Miles also had key plays in guarding Xavier stars Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons. You might say that UH got some help from the refs — I know I did, especially in the first half when the free-throw disparity was 16-0 for the 'Bows — but in the end it evened itself out, and both teams were bad from the stripe, missing 12 apiece.

Lastly, credit yourselves, those of you who were there, for making it a great game atmosphere. The crowd might have been larger the night before for Auburn (about 7,000 compared to about 5,500) but it was just as ferocious down the stretch when UH chipped away into Xavier's lead. Guaranteed it made Travis Taylor uncomfortable at the line in OT when he missed one of two, keeping it tied at 82 and setting up Thomas's winner.

UH actually ended up tying the Diamond Head record for points with 84. It was the second overtime game of the day after none had happened previously in the three-year history of the event.

Come on down

December 22nd, 2011
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Tonight's two games to cap off the first day of the Diamond Head Classic are unquestionably the more interesting matchups on tap at the Stan Sheriff Center.

No. 14 Xavier and Long Beach State has the potential to be great, even with the Musketeers missing their No. 2 scorer, Mark Lyons, as a result of the suspensions handed down after XU's brawl with Cincinnati.

The matchup of Xavier guard Tu Holloway (returning from a one-game suspension) and the 49ers'  Casper Ware (top 10 in LBSU career records in just about every stat imaginable) should be highly entertaining. Will the Musketeers have enough firepower (missing their second- and third-leading scorers) to make it to the semis? LBSU, with the toughest nonconference schedule in the country and a win at No. 9 Pitt, certainly won't be intimidated.

And it will be interesting to see how UH responds to a team with superior athleticism, after struggling at times in wins over UC Davis, Hawaii-Hilo and North Carolina A&T.

UH will need Zane Johnson and Shaquille Stokes to shoot a higher percentage than the 32 percent they've averaged on the season.

Vander Joaquim will need to pick up where he left off with WAC player of the week honors after the interisland road trip, and Joston Thomas must match the Tigers' athleticism and quickness with some of his own.

UH's team defensive scheme will be tested against AU's balanced philosophy. All five Tigers starters average double-figure scoring.

If you can't make it to the games, try to catch Kanoa Leahey's call of both contests on ESPNU. He's once again been assigned several of the games in the tournament, including both of tonight's. His broadcasts on the Worldwide Leader's networks were great in the last two years of the DHC, and this time he has the advantage of being Hawaii's regular play-by-play man.

In the morning matchups:

>> UTEP (5-5) locked up Clemson (6-5) for nearly the final 13 minutes of the game in a 61-48 victory.

>> Kansas State (8-1) ran past Southern Illinois (3-6) behind a deep bench and allowed only 29.5 percent shooting by the Salukis.

UTEP and K-State meet in the first semifinal tomorrow at noon.

New tradition?

December 17th, 2011
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A big what's up from Wailuku, Maui, locale of tomorrow's game between Hawaii and North Carolina A&T of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

Before delving into that game in tomorrow's edition, let's revisit some comments made after last night's Hawaii vs. Hawaii-Hilo game in Kailua-Kona.

As sparse as the turnout (331) was for the rare nonconference game between the system schools, coaches of both teams called the game a success.

UH coach Gib Arnold has already talked to UHH coach Jeff Law about future meetings with the Vulcans on other islands, including Kauai and Molokai.

A close call against UHH on Friday night — the Rainbow Warriors pulled away in the second half for a 79-66 win at Kealakehe High — hasn't shaken that goal. However, certain aspects of such a trip (namely the travel arrangements) would have to be improved for a third straight year of interisland games to happen.

"I like the idea of it," Arnold said afterward. "I thought we struggled a little bit coming right off (finals) and playing in the high school gym. That's not an excuse, but I like the idea of it. If it works out, we're going to keep trying to do it, but I guarantee we'll never do it where we fly in on the same day we play. We'll definitely get our guys better prepared than we were tonight."

His counterpart, Law, would be up for future inter-island meetings if the conditions were right. Logistics can be challenging for such games, with factors like mounting shot clocks up high in gyms not equipped with them.

"I would like to do it," Law said. "I tell you right now, there's a lot that went into hosting the game here. A lot on Kealakehe's part, which was awesome. The staff at Kealakehe was great. But a lot of taxation went on for our athletic facilities to come over here to do it as well as we wanted to.

"To host one in Kauai, I don't know. We can't just get in a car and get the floor down and put up shot clocks. I don't know logistically how that would work, but I would certainly be very interested in doing that. I think it's good for our guys, it's good for the community. It's good for them. I don't like playing them in a game because I don't like losing; I'd rather play them in an exhibition game. But you can't play exhibition games on the road like this.

"But I would be open to anything. I think anytime Hilo and Manoa get to play, because we're the same system and that kind of stuff, I think it's only a good thing for the state in that regard, more so than HPU or Chaminade or BYU(H). Because it is a state school, they're our big brother. Hopefully we can keep it alive in some way."

———

Senior guard Zane Johnson has been alternately hot and cold this year. On Friday, he had ice in his veins against the Vulcans — and not in the good sense.

His 31-game streak of making a 3 in a game came to an end with an 0-for-6 night from deep. It probably wasn't coincidence that he was one of the five UH players to arrive at the arena less than an hour before tipoff due to final exams on Oahu.

"Some guys, that's tough. A guy like Zane is a real rhythm guy who has his little pregame routine which starts a couple hours before," Arnold said. "He isn't able to do it, sometimes it's hard for him to get in a rhythm. Hopefully we won't play any more games where (we) drive right up and get dressed. Give them a little more time."

———

Congratulations to Johnson and Miah Ostrowski for graduating on Oahu today. They flew back this morning and will rejoin the team tonight for a late practice.

Wahine depth issues

December 10th, 2011
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I haven't posted about all things Rainbow Wahine for a while, so it's about that time.

Depth has been a concern all season, especially with the announcement this week that backup point guard Jasmine Ray requested (and was granted) her release from the team. The writing was on the wall about this one; she'd been suspended for a few games, including the New York road trip, and the body language wasn't good while she was out.

Sophomore wing Shawna Kuehu hasn't been quite right all season, either, and has been out of practices this week for unspecified reasons since the team returned from New York.

Today, the team employed three men's intramural players to fill out  a 5-on-5 scrimmage. Coach Dana Takahara-Dias hadn't yet returned from the mainland for recruiting purposes.

The good news is the reinforcements are coming. With the volleyball team's narrow loss to USC last night, freshman center Kalei Adolpho should be joining the basketball team for its next tournament, the Pepsi Rainbow Wahine Invitational Dec. 18-20.

Sophomore guard/forward Vicky Tagalicod will also be eligible for that tournament. She has ball-handling abilities and could help spell freshman PG Alissa Campanero, but the team will likely need her up front, too.

Freshman guard Ashleigh Karaitiana could have really helped this season, but she'll be out for the full year because of NCAA clearance issues. Another frosh guard and strong rebounder, Malia Cravens, hasn't seen action either as she's been out with a shoulder injury. It doesn't help that last year's back-up center, Katie Wilson, wasn't brought back for her senior year.

The team has several issues right now, but sheer lack of bodies is at the top of the list for 2-7 UH.

Miah returns

December 8th, 2011
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There was a silver lining in the UH football team's implosion down the stretch this season. At least, if you're a UH basketball fan.

Point guard Miah Ostrowski makes his second and final transition to the hardwood starting tonight in an evening practice, considerably earlier in December than if the Warriors had qualified for the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve.

The role of Ostrowski, who did much to turn around the basketball team's fortunes in WAC play last season, won't immediately be clear with freshman point guard Shaquille Stokes and sophomore Bobby Miles healthy and able to go.

But with UH at 2-4 coming off a disappointing road trip to California, one has to figure coach Gib Arnold can find a place for Ostrowski's extra-gear quickness and innate playmaking abilities.

As assistant coach Brandyn Akana said of Ostrowski in the preseason, "It's going to be interesting."

From the sound of it, Ostrowski hasn't had many opportunities to get up shots during football season, but that is no different than when he came in last season and made a greater impact than just about everyone anticipated.

It could be a matter of time, again, as to how soon Ostrowski is called upon for significant minutes in a game. He didn't keep people waiting long last time around.