By Brian McInnis
Another agonizing defeat in The Pyramid for did one thing for Hawaii — it helped shape the Big West Conference tournament picture quite a bit.
After Thursday's 63-61 setback at Long Beach State, fourth-place UH (19-9, 8-6 Big West) will very likely remain in fourth with two games still to play, trailing co-second-place teams LBSU and UC Santa Barbara (9-4) by two in the loss column. The Rainbow Warriors are up two games on Cal State Northridge and Cal Poly, which are tied for fifth at present at 6-8.
Should the 'Bows hang onto the fourth seed, they'll be matched up with the No. 5 team, which is looking more and more like Northridge. Cal Poly has not played well of late, and has the tougher final two games, at UC Irvine and at home to UCSB.
There is a chance CSUN will win both of its last two games, at UC Riverside and at home vs. LBSU. If that happens and UH doesn't manage to win either of its last two — at UCSB and Cal State Fullerton on the Rainbows' senior night (yes, I realize that's unlikely) — CSUN would win the head-to-head tiebreaker with UH and becomes the 4 and UH the 5, in which case they'll meet anyway in the first round.
Should UH get past the first round in that 4-5 game, it won't necessarily meet the No. 1 seed, be it UC Irvine, Santa Barbara or Long Beach. The Big West reseeds teams in the semifinals to match up the lowest seeds with the highest seeds, so if there is an upset in the 3-6 or 2-7 games, it will shift the bracket. Just something to keep in mind.
Congratulations to Christian Standhardinger for becoming UH's 16th 1,000-point scorer in the LBSU loss. He stands at 1,001 in his two-year UH career after going for 17 points and 11 boards.
Only three other 'Bows ever reached that plateau in two years: Tom Henderson, Anthony Carter and Reggie Cross.
He also broke John Penebacker's single-season free-throw attempts record of 224 with a 5-for-7 effort at the line — the new record is 228 and counting. The late Chris Gaines' single-season makes record of 184 won't last long, either. Standhardinger is at 175 and, at his current clip, will break it on senior night.
Now, back to the bad. There's no disputing UH's late-game execution was lacking at Long Beach, as UH gave up a late five-point lead and several key offensive rebounds.
UH did a pretty good job most of the way of limiting the damage done by Mike Caffey and A.J. Spencer, the two players who hurt the most in LBSU's win at Hawaii. Role player Travis Hammonds was the guy who hit the game-winner this time, and I think that's something Gib Arnold can live with.
The decision not to call timeout on the final, frantic possession with 8.1 seconds left wasn't too surprising. But Keith Shamburger dribbled up and was trapped at the top of the key, then forced up a difficult look that was blocked; there would be no repeat of the UC Irvine heroics. In retrospect, a timeout there could have kept UH alive.
Isaac Fotu (8 points, 2 rebounds, 4 fouls) was a nonfactor for much of the night, as his aggressiveness was robbed by three offensive foul calls, including one on a particularly egregious flop by LBSU big man Dan Jennings.
UH will rest up for a few days before heading back out to the mainland on Tuesday for its game next Thursday at UCSB, which will be difficult task with the Big West Player of the Year-in-waiting Alan Williams on the prowl.
It's a strange trip, as UH must hustle home immediately after that game to play Fullerton on senior night Saturday. Not ideal for anyone involved.