The regular season ended up lasting a little bit longer than anticipated as the University of Hawaii finished up its Big West schedule Saturday in Fullerton, Calif.
Thanks to a faulty bracket on one of the backboards, the Titan Gym crew had to call an audible halfway through the Hawaii- Cal State Fullerton matchup. After no replacement equipment was available at the venue, the overhead baskets were lowered from the ceiling and used for the second half of play. These are normally just practice rims and the Titans don’t even use them during their own practices, according to the Star-Advertiser’s Brian McInnis. So the final 20 minutes of the season ended up having a bit of an exhibition feel to it.
But Hawaii continued to show that it can pick up quality road wins and despite the unusual nature to the contest, the ‘Bows exited the building with a memorable 68-60 victory. The result gives Hawaii (17-12) an 8-8 record in conference play and sets them up as either the No. 5 or 6 seed at next week’s Big West Tournament in Anaheim, Calif. If Long Beach State defeats UC Riverside today, Hawaii is the sixth seed. If Long Beach State loses, Hawaii will be fifth.
A pair of late back-to-back three-pointers by Drew Buggs and Gibson Johnson extended a one-point UH lead to seven with just 2:05 to play. The ‘Bows held on from there to once again split the season series with Fullerton (17-11, 10-6 Big West). It’s really hard to fathom a team doing what Hawaii did this season. It finished 4-4 on the road, 4-4 at home, lost to every Big West team once and beat every Big West team once.
Without any more context than that, the ‘Bows would probably seem to be the definition of a mediocre basketball team. But this season has been an interesting one with some standout moments and signs of elevated play. They have been a true team and not reliant on any one player in any one facet of the game. Their top six scorers all average between 7.5 and 13.2 points per game. Five different players led the team in scoring in just the last six games alone.
So while they don’t typically have one guy bail them out in a poor effort, they also aren’t in a bind if one scorer has an off night.
That’s been an identity that Eran Ganot has helped to cultivate in his three seasons as head coach. The 28-6 team from 2015-16 was so dangerous because a number of guys could be the star on any given night. This team doesn’t have that type of skill or fire power, but it does have similar balance and chemistry.
Without a clear favorite heading into the Big West Tournament, Hawaii’s resume appears to have it positioned as a complete wild card. Every other team knows they can beat the ‘Bows, but that they can also be beaten by them. It’s an interesting mental position.
Having had no truly dominant teams show themselves all season, one hot week is all it will take for someone to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament. That spot is up for grabs beginning Thursday.
David Simon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.