February 4—The University of Hawaii basketball team may be having an identity crisis. What has been the Big West’s best defense for most of the season has had mixed performances in the past four games.
The University of Hawaii basketball team may be having an identity crisis.
What has been the Big West’s best defense for most of the season has had mixed performances in the past four games.
“We’ve got to get our confidence back, our juice, our mojo back,” said associate head coach John Montgomery, whose Rainbow Warriors completed a two-game road trip today against Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California. “We’ve got to play hard and together again, and we’ll live with that. I don’t think it was us (Thursday night).
In their first 22 games, the ‘Bows didn’t allow an opponent to shoot better than 49%. On Thursday, UC Davis hit 63% of its shots, including 58.3% from beyond the arc, in a 76-63 win over UH. The’Bows fell to 16-7 overall and 7-4 in the Big West.
After Thursday’s game, the Bows boarded a bus for the 4-hour, 30-minute trip from Davis to San Luis Obispo. The trainers studied videos during the long journey. On Friday, the Bowses had a walkthrough session and then watched a video from Cal Poly.
“We really stressed that we had to get our defense back,” Montgomery said. “We had an energetic and talkative run. We watched videos and talked about (defense). Our guys know that in order for us to win, we have to defend. We have to get that back. It’s been a focus for us.”
In the first meeting, the’Bows scored the first 16 points en route to a 57-48 victory. That result was the first of 10 consecutive losses for the Mustangs. They are 7-16 overall and 1-10 in the Big West.
“The first time we saw them, we really didn’t have a good performance,” Cal Poly coach John Smith said. “Hopefully playing at home and being in our own beds at night will help that. We won’t start the game 16-0 like we did there. Hopefully it will be a better game. We match up well with them. We have the size and the length they make. Now it’s all about making the right plays and the reads on both sides.”
The Mustangs run a multi-set, deliberately paced offense that averages 19.1 seconds per possession. They average 8.2 quick break points per game.
“We’re trying to put the ball in certain positions for our guys to be successful,” Smith said. “I’d like to play faster, but with this team, that doesn’t match up well. We’re trying to make sure we’re efficient with our offensive package and offensive identity.”
The Mustangs are without point guard Camren Pierce, who has missed seven games with a wrist injury. It’s doubtful if Pierce will be ready for the Big West tournament kickoff on March 7 in Henderson, Nev. Kobe Sanders, who is 6-foot-6, is a post point who lacks Pierce’s quickness on drives.
“Everybody has a problem,” Smith said of the injuries. “Every team has a problem.”
The Mustangs’ offense revolves around 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward Alimamy Koroma. Several teams feature passes to Koroma in the post. UC Santa Barbara, like many teams, doubled down on Koroma. That allowed Koroma to throw back to the perimeter, where he would pass the ball around until he found an open shooter.
“Teams are wrapping him up in their double teams,” Smith said of Koroma. “He’s still playing the game the right way, trying to make the right reads and doing the right things to help put us in position to win. He did that (Thursday) night (against UCSB) and put us in position to win with two minutes to go.”
Five of the Mustangs’ losses in the league have been by seven points or fewer, including two-possession losses against BWC leader UCSB. “They’ve played a lot of really tough teams,” Montgomery said. “They’re bound to break through and beat somebody. Hopefully it won’t be us.”