Hawaii one win from Big West title

Senior Night was a solid representation of what the Rainbow Warriors have been about all year — resiliency, emotion and a true display of camaraderie.

As the Hawaii men’s basketball team prepares for its final two games this week and a chance to clinch the Big West regular season title, they are riding some good energy after Saturday’s win over CSUN that truly showed what this team is made of.

The night began on an unusual note as Roderick Bobbitt, who would normally be enjoying his final start at home for the ‘Bows, was not in the starting lineup. Bobbitt’s absence stemmed from his postgame altercation with UC Riverside head coach Dennis Cutts in the team’s 77-71 loss on Feb. 25.

The team could have been frustrated after suffering just their fourth loss of the year and disjointed after the decision to bench Bobbitt. But there was no hangover effect as the ‘Bows came out and played hard with fellow senior Quincy Smith at the point. Bobbitt made his first appearance later in the half and seemed a little uneasy coming off the bench. But he worked himself into the action and eventually helped lead the ‘Bows to their 23rd win of the season.

The ‘Bows enter their 23rd week needing just one win to earn the Big West title, which would be the program’s first regular season conference championship since 2002. Road games at UC Davis and Long Beach State are all that stand in the way.

Saturday’s win proved that, once again, Hawaii can handle adversity. Earlier in the year, losing Bobbitt even briefly could have been a much more costly blow. He’s been the team’s unquestionable MVP, but the bench and role players have developed to where they can still operate efficiently without their optimal lineup. That’s an important characteristic when every game in the conference tournament will be do or die, and the slightest injury or foul can throw the rotation out of whack.

Hawaii won’t play in front of the Stan Sheriff fans again this year, but the outpouring of support, especially on Senior Night, should carry them the rest of the way. It’s hard to describe everything these players have been put through the past two seasons, but they and the fans have enjoyed a special connection and relationship. Between the dismissal of coaches, the exile of key players and the NCAA sanctions levied, a collective “us against the world” attitude has surrounded the program.

Despite all that potential negativity, this season will go down as one of the program’s best and a regular season crown is hopefully just the first achievement of a few still to come. The word “madness” is associated with the month of March, but it could really be applied to just about every month for Hawaii for the past year and a half. Yet here are the ‘Bows, 23-4 and on the verge of etching their names into the Big West record books.

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My Thoughts Exactly will now appear Sundays and Wednesdays. David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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