There’s a bit of an anomaly within the Hawaii men’s basketball schedule and it could go a long way in getting their season back on an upward trajectory.
Saturday was the team’s first Big West home game of the year. After a 6-9 start to the season, Hawaii gets five straight conference games at the Stan Sheriff Center. With a young team still searching for an identity, playing at home can offer a chance to establish a level of confidence that road gyms and heavy travel usually stifle.
Many factors play into the home/road dynamic. Even back in high school basketball, playing in our team’s own gym certainly kept my nerves at bay. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is, but the familiar surroundings, not having to take a bus ride, getting to change in your own locker room, these are all things that create a routine. For all but the best teams, routines are paramount in creating a culture of success.
Hawaii began conference play with a pair of disappointing losses. The ‘Bows were stifled by Can State Fullerton in the Big West opener, though they did make a late run at an improbable comeback. They were then blown out in a 28-point loss to UC Irvine.
Home is a welcome sight after those misfires on the Mainland. Hawaii won’t play another road game until Feb. 2 at UC Riverside. Between now and then, head coach Eran Ganot will have five games’ worth of observation to see where this squad is headed. What we know so far is that Jack Purchase and Gibson Johnson are the linchpins who fans should get to know. Each represent an area to where the game has evolved as multidimensional stretch big men.
But Gibson, maybe you don’t need to stretch quite so much. Perhaps three-point shooting isn’t quite in your repertoire. It’s not a huge sample size but 4 for 21 from long range isn’t really efficient offense. Keep it in the paint. Or a pump fake, how about just a pump fake?
Anyway, they’re going to be the steadying force if this steam is going to have a modicum of success.
The wild card is Noah Allen. Looking like a go-to scorer early on, Allen has struggled mightily of late. He had just 13 points (3 for 26 shooting) in the team’s previous five games entering Saturday night. This comes after having scored double figures in eight of the team’s first 10 games.
Role players at every level always play better at home. This team is essentially a collection of role players, so hopefully the next few weeks provide a bit of a respite to get some good things going. It’s the longest home stretch of the season and comes at a tipping point.
Hawaii isn’t a contender in the Big West, but this season has the potential to unravel if this home stand doesn’t go well.
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.