Hawaii Falls to UC Irvine

Heartbreak yet again for Hawaii Basketball as they fall in the Big West Tournament Quarterfinals to budding rival UC Irvine.

Should I be surprised by this result? Recent history tells me absolutely not. Hawaii has had a way of letting the biggest games slip through the smallest cracks, even when they absolutely should not.

Still, it never gets any easier to deal with. They started out the game extremely cold, and spotted UCI a 22-5 lead, continuing to allow the same problems that had plagued them all year (poor ball-handling, getting out-hustled, getting overly flustered by full court pressure) to disrupt their rhythm. I was disappointed that after what appeared to be a few straight weeks of progress in breaking the press, UCI was absolutely able to impose their will on them whenever it really mattered.

The positives? The play of Hauns Brereton, who despite an up and down season, was the team's MVP (finishing with 18 points and a team-high 9 boards). He routinely made good decisions with the ball, took good shots when they came to him and, most importantly, (though it won't show up in the box score) displayed a high motor on defense, consistently harassing UCI and always forcing his man into difficult looks.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment then, was that despite Hauns taking a step up, it seemed that no one else wanted to join him. Hawaii had a distinct size advantage and though Vander Joaquim also finished with 18 points, too often he'd end up out of control and throwing up a difficult shot (when Irvine sent a man down low to double him) instead of making the extra pass (though it certainly didn't help that his teammates stood around and watched rather than cutting through the lane or finding an open space.) This lack of energy is what you really miss when a guy like Brandon Spearman goes out, who thrived cutting without the ball along the baseline for easy layups. It also didn't help that Jace Tavita went 0-5 from the field (and 0-3 from beyond the arc). Teams seemed to have caught on that he is an exclusively pass-first point guard and UCI basically disregarded him as a scorer (playing off and daring him to beat them with open looks.) This effectively made it 4 on 5 for Hawaii on offense and allowed UCI to clog passing lanes and create turnovers more effectively.

Overall, though the team shot only 34.9% from the field and 22.2% (4 for 18) from three in this game, I thought that Gib still had an okay season when taken as a whole. He was forced to play Jace FAR too much for my liking, but still managed to work quite well with what he had.

I also like his recruiting strategy of going after not just foreign players, but players from all over the country. Once Brandon Spearman comes back (along with the solid core of Fotu, Jefferson, Jawato and incoming super-recruit Michael Thomas) the team will be loaded with potential. Will that all necessarily lead to postseason success? I guess you never really can tell. Still, all the pieces will be there, someone just needs to take the time to put them together.

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