A return home from Kansas City meant a return to basic principles Monday for the Hawaii basketball team.
Namely, defensive principles.
UH had trouble containing Missouri's athletic perimeter players in a 92-80 defeat on Saturday. It marked the second straight game the Rainbow Warriors gave up 90-plus points, both losses.
"We actually did nothing but defense today," UH coach Gib Arnold said. "I like how our offense is coming along, I like the tempo. We're the 19th-ranked team in the country as far as tempo, which means we're playing really fast. And we're playing pretty efficient. ... We're not turning the ball over, even with us playing fast. I think we're top-50 in efficiency. I'm pleased with what's going on on offense. I think we can still get better.
"I do think, defensively, we need to clamp down and guard the interior a little more, guard the drive a little more. I think we're fouling a little bit too much. Doing a good job guarding the 3-point ball, they're shooting under 30 (percent, 29.7). But interior they're shooting a high rate and we're fouling them. So, today's practice was all about that. All about stopping penetration, all about team defense and rotating on defense. For most of the week for the next couple weeks, I think that's going to be an emphasis of ours."
UH takes on its Division II sister school, Hawaii Hilo, at the Stan Sheriff Center on Thursday. The Vulcans are the first of two non-D-I teams UH plays in official games this season.
The 'Bow who performed best at the Sprint Center was not surprisingly senior forward Christian Standhardinger, who played the Tigers (though not in that venue) in Big 12 play during his days at Nebraska. There were about 13,000 on hand at the Sprint Center, which has hosted many Big 12 tournament games. Missouri has won six straight there.
"The fans weren't even that loud," Standhardinger said. "I was disappointed. I thought there would be more cussing around against us and all that. That always makes you better. But they were actually nice and polite. It was nice playing in front of their crowd and it was a good experience."
He bounced back from a nine-point game in UH's loss to New Mexico State to finish with 22 points on 9-for-12 shooting from the field. The 'Bows absolutely missed him late in the game when he went out with his fourth foul.
"I think I'm used to more playing in front of large crowds than some of the freshmens for example," he said. "I love large crowds, especially if they're against me. That's why I always don't play that bad in away games. But a loss in a loss. I gotta step it up more, and we gotta step it up as a team more, stay together and fight harder to get a win next time."
It was also a big game for another senior captain, Brandon Spearman, not because of his final stat line (11 points, 4-13 shooting) but for the fact he recovered quickly from his sprained right ankle and returned to action after just three games missed. Many feared he'd be out much longer with is ill-timed injury to tip off the BYUH exhibition.
"It felt good playing out there. I couldn't wait to get back out on the court. I wanted to play the Mizzou game," said Spearman, a Chicago native. "It just felt good playing with my brothers."
"I had a bunch of friends and family out to see me. It was real good to see them. Thank God we went to the Midwest, man."
The main question now is if Spearman will feel any lingering issues with his ankle.
"I mean, my ankle felt good," he said. "Injury-wise, I wasn't thinking about it. I just went out and played. Missouri gave us a tough battle. I think we learned a lesson that game, that we gotta pick up defensively, and that's one thing we gotta focus on in upcoming games."
Standhardinger once again leads the team in scoring at 17.0 points per game.
At this moment UH has five players averaging double figures (Standhardinger, Garrett Nevels (15.5) ,Isaac Fotu (14.3), Spearman (11.0) and Keith Shamburger (10.3), and nearly a sixth in backup guard Quincy Smith (9.5).
UH's 82.8 points per game is 70th nationally.
I'll do a recap/breakdown blog entry on the postgame chaos in the UH women's basketball game against West Virginia in the coming 48 hours. I need to let it breathe a little bit.