It wasn’t the follow-up performance the Rainbow Warriors were hoping for on Saturday when they headed to San Diego State for their first Mountain West Conference road game of the season. Coming off a 38-28 comeback win in their MWC opener against Wyoming to recapture the Paniolo Trophy, Hawaii struggled to move the ball and only found the end zone on a hail mary at the end of the first half.
Now at 1-1 in the conference and 2-5 on the season, Hawaii tries to get back on the right track against Nevada (4-3, 1-2 MWC) during Saturday night’s Homecoming game at Aloha Stadium (6 p.m.). The ‘Bows will have to clean up a number of the issues that plagued them last week if they hope to pick up their first Homecoming victory since 2011.
Against San Diego State, Hawaii possessed the ball for more than 12 minutes fewer than the Aztecs. That was mostly because they had trouble stopping the run, allowing 283 yards on the ground, while also committing three turnovers. Despite those disparities, UH was still just seven points down heading into the fourth quarter, but they committed all three turnovers in that final frame and gained just one first down while running eight offensive plays.
Time of possession will be an important factor this week. Hawaii has only won the possession battle decisively once this year – the season-opening 17-16 loss to Washington. (Seriously, how did they lose that game?) Nevada possesses a high-powered offense led by quarterback Cody Fajardo. The Wolfpack will have their confidence back after ending a two-game losing streak and beating BYU last week, erasing a 15-point halftime deficit in the process.
Hawaii currently sits as a 4-point underdog on its home turf, but the friendly confines should help correct what it lacked in San Diego.
FOTU HEADLINES HOOPS SQUAD: The Big West Conference announced its preseason selections on Thursday and the Rainbow Warriors were picked by the media to finish in fifth place. Defending conference champion UC Irvine got the nod to repeat, receiving 20 of the 26 first-place votes.
UC Santa Barbara, Long Beach State and Cal State Northridge took the two through four spots ahead of UH. Cal Poly, UC Davis, Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside round out the rankings.
Hawaii junior power forward Isaac Fotu was selected to the Big West Preseason All-Conference Team. Fotu is coming off a very productive sophomore campaign in which he averaged 14.9 points and 6.1 rebounds in 30 minutes a night. He shot better than 58 percent from the floor and improved his free throw shooting to better than 73 percent from the stripe.
The New Zealander also played for his country in the FIBA Basketball World Cup this summer, averaging 9.5 points and 4.5 rebounds, shooting better than 60 percent from the field.
He’ll be the catalyst for a UH team coming off a 20-11 season, but one that lost starters Christian Standhardinger and Brandon Spearman to graduation, as well as point guard Keith Shamburger to transfer. Fotu and Garrett Nevels are the returning starters and more minutes should open up for Quincy Smith and Aaron Valdes.
The team will play an exhibition game against Hawaii Pacific on Nov. 6, then gets the regular season underway with the Outrigger Resorts Rainbow Classic on Nov. 14.