By Jeff Portnoy
There is no way to sugar-coat last night's overtime loss to UC Northridge in the first round of the Big West tournament. It was brutal.
UH came out flat and was down 16 points mud-way thru the first half. Northridge fought for every loose ball, ran the transition game at will, and it looked a lot last year's first half against Irvine. And then, just as poorly as it played the first 10-12 minutes, the Bows put on one of their most impressive performances of the year for the next 20. Their defense tightened, they made some threes, Stardhardinger slashed to the hoop at will (mostly getting fouled where he broke the UH single season record for made free throws), and it looked like the turn-around game of the year. Yes, after a decade of futility in the first round of League Championships (yes the UH men had won only once in ten years, against Idaho in Gib's second year), UH fell apart.
The Bows let a 13 point lead with under 8 minutes to play slip away. Was it the result of a decision to slow the game down and basically play two man basketball with Shamberger dribbling down the clock and looking for Fotu underneath? Or having Shamburger take almost every shot down the stretch?( Standhardinger hardlly touched the ball in OT). Was it the result of an ill-advised planned foul with 17 seconds left in the overtime with UH up by three. I think it was prudent to foul, but not with so many seconds left on the clock. Was it the result of not having any time-outs left when UH took the ball out after Northridge made those two three throws causing the ball to go to Shamburger inches from the endline leading to a turnover. Was it Nevels fouling out? Was it Issaac capping off a poor game ( it was clear Northridge decided pre-game not to let Issaac beat them with swarming double teams every time he touched the ball) with a very ill-advised offense foul in the last 10 seconds on a moving screen? I could go on and on with the what-ifs.
The bottom line is UH let a game they had won slip away against an opponent lower-ranked and in a game where they were 6 point favorites. And this one will linger. It is fair to discuss whether this team accomplished its goals in year four of the Gib era. Yes, they had 20 wins, but is a 4th place finish in the Big West and another first round loss in the Tournament is not what they and we expected.
So now the talk begins of playing in one of those buy-in tournaments. My opinion. Let the season be over. Both financially and competitively, it’s time to let the goal of playing in a second rate post season event be a thing of the past. Do we really care if UH plays in the Riley Wallace Invitational. I know the team probably does. But what about the fans, only 3000 of which came out for last year's opening home game. I guess I just think it’s time to begin to think about next season. And there is much work to be done. Standhardinger, the heart of this year's team leaves, as does the soul, Brandon Spearman. Losing these two critical pieces will not be easy to replace. Maybe the next week or two would be better spent on the road recruiting.
One final thought. This team played hard all year. They never gave up. They were exciting to watch. Did they achieve their goals? No, but they certainly gave all us something to cheer for. Aloha guys.