POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Feb 04, 2013
~~<p>Few saw the instant metamorphosis coming.<br />
Few saw the instant metamorphosis coming. Want to revisit a dramatic reversal? Take a look at Hawaii's transformation over the last two weeks from road kill to road Warriors. Out of seemingly nowhere, the Rainbow Warriors basketball team conjured a three-game road winning streak, prevailing at UC Santa Barbara, UC Riverside and, on Saturday, 77-75 in a wild one at Cal State Fullerton. The last two required comebacks from double-digit deficits. Although all three wins came against teams in the bottom half of the Big West Conference standings, it's still an exceedingly rare achievement for a UH team. A three-game road winning streak has happened only four other times for UH since its first season of conference play — 1979 in the Western Athletic Conference — and hadn't occurred since Riley Wallace's 'Bows beat San Jose State, SMU and Louisiana Tech in succession in the 2003-04 season. "You know, it feels great because we realize how difficult it is to go win on the road," UH coach Gib Arnold said late Saturday night from Fullerton. "It's tough to win a game regardless, but to win three in a row on the road? You just have to go look back through the history ... it makes you feel good that the team is maturing and able to win tough road games. It gives the guys a lot of confidence." The 'Bows came back from 12 points down in the second half on CSUF's raucous homecoming night. UH went up five in the final minute, but the Titans hit a 3 with 2.2 seconds left and took a foul on Hauns Brereton with 1.1 to go. He missed the first at the line and intentionally missed the second, and the hosts' full-court heave to win was off the mark. The jubilant Rainbow Warriors flew home Sunday from Los Angeles. The road success allowed UH (13-9, 7-4 Big West) to hold sole possession of third place entering Thursday's showdown with league leader Long Beach State (13-8, 9-1) at the Stan Sheriff Center. A 29-point blowout defeat at Cal Poly on Jan. 24 to kick off four straight road games didn't exactly signify what was coming. UH was 0-4 on the mainland for the season to that point. The team even added to the travel load by splitting the four games in half, flying back home to get in two days of study before returning. Not only that, a demoralizing 93-82 home loss to UC Davis preceded it. UH's senior leadership of Jace Tavita, Brereton and Vander Joaquim was in question on a roster loaded with freshmen. "You have to understand that when you're dealing with teenagers, there are going to be some up and downs," Arnold said. "But teenagers in general and this team, they're very resilient. So to lose a game by 29, and to turn around and put a string together is doable if you don't panic. Rather than add, you simplify, which is kind of what we did. We just tried to make the game a little easier." After the lopsided loss, Arnold met with his captains. A starting lineup laden with upperclassmen emerged — freshmen Isaac Fotu, Manroop Clair and Ozren Pavlovic shifted to the bench — and the seniors responded in conjunction with a monster stretch from Christian Standhardinger. The junior forward averaged 24 points and 11.3 rebounds in the wins. Arnold repeated his belief in giving his freshmen a heavy workload earlier this season to develop a stronger bench, but felt it was time to return the reins to the elders — especially on the road. "One of the things we really did was, we empowered my senior leadership to take a more active role," Arnold said. "To be more involved in the game planning and to kind of ask them to take a more active role in leadership and getting their teammates to play with a greater effort. And I think that Hauns and Jace and Vander have stepped up to the plate. Which is really good because we don't win any of these games without all three of those guys playing and their leadership." Tavita lent stability to UH's tumultuous point guard position by dishing 23 assists to only nine turnovers. Ball control was much stronger; the team averaged only 11.3 turnovers in the streak, well below its season average of 16. Brereton found his stroke and shot 7-for-16 (43.7 percent) on 3-pointers. And Joaquim notched his seventh and eighth double-doubles of the season. "It's not easy, and it shows a lot of growth on this team, which I'm really, really pleased (about)," Arnold said. "We were so young and so new. To be able to do that is a tribute to these guys growing up."
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