UH vs. Air Force Mini CIT Preview

Air Force Academy's Michael Lyons, a newly minted all-Mountain West first team selection, will be a major thorn in the side of Hawaii on Wednesday.

Hawaii struggles with defense. Our overall win-loss record reflects that. Our lack of superior athleticism reflects that. Brandon Spearman's injury reflects that. The problem this Wednesday then, is that Michael Lyons, Air Force's best player, represents a critical one-on-one matchup issue for Hawaii. That is to say, the core of our defensive strength lies in our superior size. Davis Rozitis, Vander Joaquim, Christian Standhardinger and Issac Fotu all play over 6' 9" and all stuff the middle of the lane fairly effectively (their occasional rebounding struggles notwithstanding). On the perimeter though? Brandon Spearman has the quickness and size to stay with athletic wings, but he's hurt. Hauns Brereton has heart and desire, but remains susceptible to fatigue. So what's left? Jace Tavita? Garrett Jefferson? Both are physical but neither has proven effective in the clutch and neither is getting consistent playing time (which is why opposing guards between 6-3 and 6-6 are regularly the bane of our collective existence.)

Look, for example, at Brandon Paul and Tracy Abrams from Illinois, who torched the Warriors for 25 and 22 points respectively. Together they were single-handedly responsible for beating us early in the year, bringing their team back for a one-point win despite facing a double-digit deficit for most of the game.

Look also at Chris Eversley from Cal Poly, literally the only player who played well that game and yet, one who inexplicably found himself open time and time again for easy looks at the basket (going 11 of 18 from the field and scoring 25 points).

Look finally at Corey Hawkins from UC Davis, who led the winning-streak ending blowout of UH shooting 50% and scoring 21 points.

The main problem here, at least as I see it, is that even in college if you leave a good shooter open more often than not, he'll make the shot. You can say what you want about jumpers from 10-18 feet being the most inefficient shot in basketball (which they are), but when you someone is wide open in that area, median statistics tend to get thrown out the window. That's what so frustrating about UH. Teams know that they don't need to drive into the lane to score, and that instead they can shoot open mid-range jumpers as often as they'd like. Then, once their shots start falling and UH has to close out more aggressively, lanes begin to appear in the interior for wing players to drive and kick, or drive and finish. This type of defensive sequence is the slippery slope that is Hawaii's defense. If we don't lock Lyons down from the beginning, his scoring ability will likely mean that we are in for a long night.


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