By Brian McInnis
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.
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.
"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."
"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."