By Brian McInnis
Playing at UNLV's Thomas & Mack Center was going to be a tall order no matter what.
But digging a 26-point hole in the first half — and 22 at halftime — made things no easier for the Hawaii men's basketball team on Saturday.
Despite that, give the 'Bows credit for coming out the way they did in the second half. They got to within eight points on two occasions before the No. 24 Rebels closed it out. They were just too quick and athletic, notching eight dunks and 22 assists.
Two players in particular played well for UH (4-2). Christian Standhardinger was the team's only solid option throughout, as he tied his career high of 27 points to go with 10 rebounds while winning his head-to-head matchup with Mike Moser. He's had experience playing at some tough Big 12 venues, at it showed in comparison to the tentative early play of his teammates.
Backup point guard Garrett Jefferson was a pleasant surprise in 22 minutes off the bench. He matched up well with UNLV's athletes on one end, and showed off a heretofore unseen playmaking sense at the other. He had eight points, five assists, three boards, two steals and a block while shooting 3-for-3 from the field and 2-for-2 at the foul line. He was a better option than Jace Tavita that night; Tavita was held to two assists after averaging 8.0 per game through UH's first five contests.
Conversely, UH got almost nothing from the wing, and went 1-for-18 on 3-pointers. Hauns Brereton was off all night (1-for-9 overall) and Brandon Spearman was only slightly better. Those two came in averaging a combined 28 points and left the T&M with 10 between them. That won't get it done.
Center Vander Joaquim was flustered from the get go with five turnovers in the first half. But he avoided turning it over after the break and scored 10 of his 12 in the period. He had a 3-point look coming out of a timeout that would have made it a five-point game with 2:09 left, but he back-ironed it and UH would not score again in the final 2:58.
Up next is Pepperdine on Saturday at the Stan Sheriff. The West Coast Conference always has to be respected and the Waves (4-3) have played two Big West teams already this season, losing to Cal State Northridge and defeating UC Irvine.