Archive for January, 2013

Four for the road

January 22nd, 2013
By



Saying the season of the Hawaii men's basketball team hinges on the next four games, all on the road, would be a little melodramatic. Remember, the Big West is a one-bid league to the NCAA Tournament and whichever team puts it all together in mid-March will be the one to go dancing.

But when it comes to some of the alternate tournaments — as well as long-term coaching and program perception consequences — picking up wins right now absolutely makes a difference. UH (10-8, 4-3 Big West) departed Tuesday night for games at Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara, after first getting in a practice session on campus in the afternoon.

The 'Bows will be returning home for two days after the Cal Poly and UCSB games before going back out to the road for two more at UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton next week.

It was a pretty emotional practice Tuesday, with coach Gib Arnold trying to get his guys fired up before they left for the mainland.

Arnold, not coincidentally, closed practice midway through. UH has dropped three of its last four and is 0-3 this season in mainland games.

"Early in the practice, I felt like we were thinking more about the plane ride than preparing. And we were taking some plays off on both ends of the floor," Arnold said. "That changed about halfway through, and the last half of practice we I thought practiced like a team that wants to try to go win some road games.

"First half, I wasn't pleased with the effort. And this team has been giving me effort all year long. This was one of the few times where I didn't see it. It bothered me, because that's the one thing we've got to rely on, especially with these two road trips."

Energy is rarely an issue with junior forward Christian Standhardinger, who bounced back from a few quiet games with 20 points and eight rebounds in Saturday's 93-82 home loss vs. UC Davis.

"(Coach) just wants to get across that you've got to come ready to play in every game," Standhardinger said. "He saw we didn't start good enough early in practice. And he wanted to get that out of our system. As players we have to adapt, listen to him and try to do a better job."

From what I could watch before the doors were shut, senior swingman Hauns Brereton was back in on partial contact after getting an MRI done on a knee over the weekend.

Being held out of Saturday's game because of knee swelling was a bummer for the tri-captain, who'd scored in double figures for the first time in 10 games two days earlier vs. Pacific.

"Worked partial today, seeing how it feels running up and down. But it feels good," Brereton said. "My knee was really stiff (last Saturday). Stiff enough where I couldn't bend it all the way straight. And then it was hard to bend up. The doctors felt around and told me they wanted an MRI and I had to wait for that before I could get back on it. It's good, there were no ligament or cartilage tears, it's just where the bones meet, there's bruises on both of them. So there's a little swelling, but it's gone down since then. Now it's a matter of time before the bruises go away. So it's not that bad.

"It's never easy when you have to sit out. You know you can help the team out. But it happens, it's part of the game. You gotta bounce back. ... I'm hoping I'm ready to go Thursday."

The other wounded Warrior, Freshman Brandon Jawato, (hip ailment), was not cleared for contact and shot baskets off to the side. He's questionable for Thursday. For what it was worth, the team's top 3-point shooter had his customary shooting motion from long range.

Arnold said both Brereton and Jawato are making this week's trip.

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As for the unusual situation of four straight conference road games, Arnold expressed some displeasure.

"We need to get in the mind-set that we're just going to go play really aggressive on the road. Go get us some wins. The conference has been kind enough to give us four straight chances to win on the road. You know, we've got to go prove ourselves. And the good teams do that.

"We're the only one who has that, us and Northridge. The difference with Northridge is they can just drive back. I was a little bit surprised that they would do that. Academically, it doesn't make a lot of sense. But you don't control those situations."

On the planned quick hop home between weeks, he said, "Basketball-wise, it's probably not the right thing to do, but school-wise, it is. We're going to be able to get two extra days of school in. And we'll take red eyes (back) there. These guys need to be in class."

Return home = return to form?

January 14th, 2013
By



Hey all, there won't be a UH hoops story in Tuesday's edition of the newspaper. Thus, I figured it's a good time to use the blog format to help answer some of the burning questions some of you have had based on the road losses at UC Irvine and Long Beach State last week.

UH (9-7, 3-2) plays at home vs Pacific (9-7, 3-1) on Thursday and UC Davis (5-10, 1-3) on Saturday. A 2-0 week would vault the fourth-place Rainbow Warriors back into the regular-season title hunt. Something less than that, well, then it's a pretty steep uphill climb with the next four on the road.

A couple of the questions that jumped out from the road trip were A) What happened to Manroop Clair in those games (two minutes vs. UCI and a DNP against LBSU) and B) Why didn't Christian Standhardinger play more vs. LBSU (season-low 12 minutes).

On the first question, note that Jace Tavita was never completely supplanted as the team's primary point guard. There's a reason Tavita still leads the Big West in assists per game (5.3), despite a high turnover count. He's been around. He's not fazed by the road. Even when Clair started, Tavita was generally seeing split time at the point.

And now that Brandon Jawato has emerged as one of the team's top wing players, Ozren Pavlovic has shifted from the wing to a point foward, cutting into Clair's time.

Here's Gib Arnold on Manroop: "I thought in Irvine, he played a little bit and was a little timid with the ball. So we gave Ozi a shot, and I thought Ozi played with a good deal of confidence. With that, you earn more minutes. He was my first guard off the bench in that position against Long Beach State, and he didn't let us down. He didn't shoot the ball particularly well (2-for-8), but I don't really sub guys a whole lot on shots. I like composure and effort, especially with the young guys. I thought he gave us that, two assists and no turnovers, and ran the team. I felt comfortable against them, they give a lot of pressure and he was at ease with it. That's something that we need — a calming influence out there. Especially on the road, and he played well at that position. He played his position really well."

As for question B, Standhardinger got the hook almost immediately after the game started when he turned the ball over. With the team's cranked-up emphasis on cutting down turnovers, I can't say it was terribly surprising. He was never really in the game's flow after that.

Here's Arnold on Standhardinger:

"We talked about our turnover issues. Certain things we're just not going to allow. You're going to have some turnovers, every team does, especially if you're a team that runs up and down. And we've got to accept that. But there's certain things we have in place, whether it's turnovers or whether it completes the play but you do it, I told them, 'I'm going to sub.' Just so we break some habits that we have that have caused some of those turnovers. Three different things that we talked about. We watched a lot of film on it. The players know what that is, and we just said, 'you know what, if you do it I'm just going to take you out, and we're going to put someone else in.' We're going to find guys who are stronger with the ball. Just so we make an emphasis and that's who we are. I think when you say something like that and you don't take them out, then you lose the chance of getting better. Christian learned from that, and he's not on anybody's dog list at all. He's still a huge part of what we do and will play this week. He was a little loose with the ball."

Arnold declined to say what the three things were. But you can bet they have to do with not knowing how to properly execute a play and where to be. That drives him crazy.

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Here's what Jawato (19-for-30 3-point shooting in BWC play) and Hauns Brereton (a serviceable 4-for-7 for eight points vs. LBSU) had to say about the road trip on Monday.

Jawato:

"Now we know our weak spots. We're going to take care of the ball more and going into this week, we know what we need to do. It'll be exciting playing Pacific on Thursday.

I feel way more confident out there, and more comfortable just playing with my teammates. Hopefully I can continue my (good) play."

On the team's desperation heave with 1.7 seconds left, that was undone when the officials called a foul on Davis Rozitis then a technical on Arnold:

"I actually thought we were going to win it. But unfortunately, they called a foul on Davis after he tipped it to me. I was kind of upset after that. Honestly I think if Davis would have got that tip, I think we would have won that game by a buzzer beater. That's how I felt."

On the debilitating turnover play with the game tied the possession before:

"I was supposed to come off a Euro (screen) but instead, Keala King overplayed me so I backdoored and Jace kind of lost control of the ball when they deflected it. It went out of bounds and after that their point guard (Mike) Caffey came down and hit a floater."

Here's Brereton:

"We learned a lot this trip. The losses we felt like was our own fault. These other teams are really good, but we felt like our play dictated the results. So it gives us a lot of confidence to work on ourselves.

It keeps coming down to that (turnovers). It's just a result of our play. Right at the end of the game — we've been in so many close games this year — we're right on the edge. Right when we make that step forward, I think we'll be really good. The last two minutes, in our mind frames, we've got to be really strong with the ball."

Finally, here's Arnold on the road trip overall:

"Any loss is a tough loss. Again, I'll be happy with any team that has great attitude, great effort and great energy. And I thought, especially in that Long Beach State game, that team gave me all three of those. Their effort was tremendous, I thought they did a really good job with the scout. And again, that's a team that I'll go to battle with any day. We lost a tight one against a really good team at a tough place to play. And take it for what it is. We had a chance with the ball, tied up with 15 seconds left to maybe end a two-year (conference) win streak at their place. Didn't finish, but I got nothing but good things to say about this team. I thought they did an outstanding job."

Revenge of the blog

January 13th, 2013
By



Malware? Hah! You can't keep Court Sense down with malware, anonymous internet fiends.

In any case, we're back up and running. Apologies to anyone who tried to visit and got a strange message warning you about malware on the site over the last week or so. It appears to have been resolved.

Since the last posting, the Hawaii men's basketball team was dealt a dose of road heartbreak. Close losses at UC Irvine (68-64) and two-time defending champion Long Beach State (76-72) knocked the Rainbow Warriors out of first place and into a three-way tie for fourth.

Yup, you read that right. LBSU (4-1) leads the way now, followed by Cal State Fullerton and Pacific at 3-1, then UH, UC Irvine and Cal Poly at 3-2.

It appears, at this point, any one of these teams can take the Big West title, though The Beach remains the prohibitive favorite once it figures out its new parts it worked in over the holiday break.

UH can vault itself back at or near the top with a very possible 2-0 week coming up at home vs. Pacific and UC Davis. If not, well, it's going to be a tall task with the next four on the road in the heart of the league schedule.

The Rainbow Warriors have to be happy about Brandon Jawato's emergence as a clutch shot-maker. He's made a ridiculous 19 of 30 3-pointers (63 percent) in BWC play, and he nearly bailed his teammates out with the win at LBSU, tying the game up with a 3 on two occasions in the final minutes.

Senior Hauns Brereton also showed some life against LBSU, scoring eight points on 4-for-7 shooting. He really needed an outing like that.

But the UH frontcourt couldn't carry the load this time. Vander Joaquim was held to 13 (bringing him within nine of 1,000 career points). Christian Standhardinger had three turnovers and had his quietest (and least played) game of the season, with season lows of 12 minutes and six points. And Isaac Fotu had six points and six boards, not enough to pick up the slack.

Look for that trio to come out strong against Pacific on Thursday.

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The UH women's hoops team, meanwhile, was in action today at home against The Beach.

Freshman Destiny King, a Long Beach native who knows many of the 49ers players, downplayed the personal significance of the game.

Her older brother, Keala, plays for the 49ers men's hoops team, however. She had a few interesting things to say regarding that.

"Blood's thicker than water, so I always have to go for my brother," Destiny said. "I do give the (UH) boys luck, but my brother's coming back from not playing last year (as a transfer). I just hope he does well."

Keala King had a relatively quiet game against Uh on Saturday, with three points, three assists and three turnovers.

"We keep in touch every single day," Destiny said. "Just hearing from his perspective about college and stuff like that, learning that I need to be in the gym every single day. He's giving me advice on what I need to do to better my game and myself with the coach and my teammates.

(Sitting out) humbled him as well, not playing. But he was really hungry to play after not playing preseason. Him getting a chance to play shows that he's worked very hard."

New Year's resolutions

January 1st, 2013
By



Happy New Years to all. Raise your glass and let us take a moment to reflect on the 2012 hoops year that was.

It was an up-and-down one from a UH perspective. The second half of the 2011-12 season saw the 'Bows go from a WAC contender to a fizzle of a regular-season finish with losses in six of their last seven. That one win, however, came over Idaho in the WAC tournament first round, adding at least a moment of respectability to a 16-16 season that had no postseason invitation.

A number of players moved on early in the offseason, most notably Joston Thomas, Shaquille Stokes and Trevor Wiseman.

The biggest name in doubt, though, Vander Joaquim, ultimately pledged his return for a senior season. He was dealt a significant setback in the preseason with a right MCL tear, but he showed signs of shaking it off just as the calendar year 2012 wrapped up.

While the 'Bows lost a lot, a number of new players, like Isaac Fotu, Brandon Spearman, Manroop Clair and others helped bring a younger, earnest energy to the team.

UH's 2012-13 nonconference season had some expected wins against lower-tier competition and some disappointing losses and missed opportunities against "name" opponents like Illinois, UNLV, Miami and Ole Miss.

The 'Bows escaped with a 74-71 win in their Big West Conference debut last Saturday against Cal State Northridge. A big follow-up looms on Thursday in Cal State Fullerton, the projected runner-up in the conference.

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Here's some possible New Year's resolutions for the 'Bows as they turn the corner from 2012 to 2013.

>> Make free throws. This one seems to come up every year. UH is shooting 64.3 percent as a team, with those numbers skewed heavily toward the big man triumvirate of Joaquim, Christian Standhardinger and Isaac Fotu. All three of those guys are shooting in the mid- to low 60s, and they've combined to attempt 173 of the team's 255 free throw tries this season. That's over two-thirds, so it will skew your average something fierce. Either those guys need a renaissance from 15 feet or the 'Bows' wing players need to get to the line more to bump it up.

>> Take care of the ball. UH entered Big West play last in turnover margin (minus 4.5) in the league, and at about 16 giveaways per game overall. Guardplay was an area of concern entering the season and this stat directly correlates to UH's struggles against pressure and consistently delivering the ball on target.

>> Protect big leads. Even in the games the 'Bows have won, they've almost always jumped out to a sizable advantage only to sweat out the result. And that's not always worked out in the end (see Illinois).

>> Get road Ws. It will be a tough first BWC road trip at UC Irvine and Long Beach State, but if UH can steal one of those it could alter their own of road expectations both internally and around the league. Road wins have always separated the good UH teams from the average.

Those items should keep Gib Arnold and Co. plenty busy for now. Here's what a few players had to say about New Year's resolutions.

Junior guard Garrett Jefferson: "Just keep working hard and trying to get more wins. We just gotta keep working hard, hopefully we can win the Big West. There's a lot of good teams in it, so we're going to keep working."

Freshman guard Brandon Jawato: "Going into 2013, one of our goals is to win the Big West Conference. It's a team goal for us to make it to the NCAA Tournament. And to just help the team out best as I can."

Junior forward Christian Standhardinger: "For me personally, I need to keep working hard. … I mean, I gotta fix those free throws (0-for-8 start against Cal State Northridge). ... I made a rule, I start from the beginning. Zero-zero. Let's see how good I do (this) year."