By Jeff Portnoy
Ok, first credit where credit is due. Four straight road wins, something UH hasn't been able to do in four decades. Yes, three of the wins came against teams ranked 300 or worse in the RPI, but some of those teams have won a few Conference games against the league leaders. Some timely outside shooting and consistent play from Issac and Christian contributed to the two road wins last week, although Fullerton again showed what an athletic talented guard can do to UH inside. A missed free throw probably cost Fullerton the game, but if you cant make a free throw with the game on the line, at home, you deserve to lose.
But once again UH finds itself with a chance to score a big home victory against one of the better teams in the league. They couldnt get it done against Santa Barbara or Long Beach, but there is no more margin of error this week against league leading Irvine. The Anteaters come here knowing that had they beaten UH at home back on Jan 25th, they would be sitting pretty in the league race. And if they lose again here on Thursday, they cannot afford to lose the next two games, at Northridge and home against Santa Barbara. And for Hawaii, they cant afford anymore home losses. Hawaii beat Irvine, in part, by moving Issac out of the paint and into the short corner where he scored at will. UH essentially neutralized Mamadou Ndiaye, and the hack a Ndiaye exposed his poor free throw shooting when it mattered most. Irvine has some complimentary scorers, and they have only two league losses, but I think Hawaii steps up this Thursday and does what it couldnt do the last two home thursdays, that is beat one of the top three teams in the league.
Face it, after this week, Hawaii has to go to Santa Barbara and Long Beach. The chances of winning either of those games is not great so Hawaii needs the wins this week to compete for the top three spots in the tournament. Quality wins remain an issue for the Rainbow Warriors. Despite a 18-7 record, their RPI stands about 150 with a strengrh of schedule above 200. Road wins against two of the bottom feeders in the league add to the win total, but it will take a win against Irvine to show that UH is ready to compete with the League leaders. If you plan on going to one game this season, this is the one . Anything less than 8000 will be a disappointment.
Its pretty clear that UH will hit the 20 win mark this year. Two of the wins have come against non Division 1 opponents so I would like to see 22 wins overall before the Tournament. It wont be easy, but it is doable. You dont want to play Cal Poly or Northridge in the first round of the Tournament, so a second place finish would be the goal. Down two games in the loss column to Irvine and one to Santa Barbara, Thursday's game is huge. Nice to say that with only three weeks left in the season.
These are my personal views. How about yours?