By Jeff Portnoy
just days after one of the signature wins in Gib Arnold's coaching tenure, The Rainbow Warriors came down to earth last night losing to Long Beach State. Based upon what was at stake and the excitement surronding this team, this is one of tougher losses to accept.
It wasnt Hawaii's offense that let them down. It was the defense ( and I use the term losely). Long Beach, a team averaging 66 points a game before last night, put up 92 points on a 60% field goal percentage. They scored over 40 points in the paint, not on putbacks, but on dribble drives thru the hawaii defense leading to easy layups. I have said before that i thought Hawaii lacked secondary defense in the lane, and boy, did the Long Beach guards expose that last night. Time after time, they penetrated in the lane leaving only Fotu to defend. Where was Stardhardinger defensively all game. Frankly i recall one defensive stop by him all night.
Thru most of the season, Hawaii's press has caused problems, but not last night. Long Beach's guards were as quick as Hawaii guards, and just as athletic. And Mike Caffey was unstoppable.
But all is clearly not lost. Yes, Hawaii gave one back at home, something you cant do more than once or twice and compete for the league crown. But even with the loss, Hawaii stands only one game back from the three teams tied for the lead. Northridge comes into town tomorrow and I expect Hawaii will bounce back and defeat the Matadors, a team they should have beaten on the road.
Hopefully, folks will show up for the game. I know last night was a Thursday game, but the crowd numbers were disapoointing. Not the folks who showed up, or the students who were out in force, but the casual fan who stayed away. With all the hype surronding the Irvine win, I expected a huge crowd. Didnt happen.
Long Beach, when they score, is a solid team. You cant look at thier overall record because many of their losses came on the road against top 75 teams. And they were not at full strentgh until the semester break. They will compete, as always. for the league championship, and Hawaii needs to put last night behind them as they have three, now very critical, home games , coming up. I didnt think they would sweep these four games, but i didnt think they would lose the first one. The pressure is on, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It means the fans and the team believe they can compete at the top level of this league. Its starts again tomorrow.
Now the disclaimer. You know the drill by now. These are my personal views, not necessarily those of the any other Regent or the Board.