The Two-Headed Monster morphed into the Three-Headed Giant.
In a new formation the Hawaii men’s basketball team tried out in last week’s home loss to Boise State, UH power forward Bill Amis joined with centers Vander Joaquim and Douglas Kurtz to create a new-look offense.
Coach Gib Arnold unleashed his new post pet at home, but would he dare unchain it in unfamiliar territory?
UH left last night on its longest road trip of the season to play New Mexico State tomorrow in remote Las Cruces, N.M., and Louisiana Tech (9-8, 0-3) on Saturday in rustic Ruston, La.
The idea: if UH is getting beaten by faster, more athletic teams, wear those teams down inside through relentless work on the backboards. At the defensive end, UH sticks to a 2-3 zone with the three bigs spread out down low.
RAINBOW WARRIORS BASKETBALL
Western Athletic Conference
» Who: Hawaii (9-7, 0-4) at New Mexico State (8-9, 2-1)
» When: 4 p.m. tomorrow
» Where: Las Cruces, N.M.
» Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
It’s an intriguing adjustment by the UH coaches, one that has some of the Rainbows excited despite the team’s worst start to WAC play since the 1998-99 season.
Whenever a shot goes up on offense, the 6-foot-9 Amis, 6-10 Joaquim and 7-foot Kurtz must crash the boards with abandon while the ‘Bows’ guards retreat back on defense.
"We can get post touches really easily, and they can’t really help (on defense)," Amis said. "That’s the main thing, is trying to get offensive rebounds out of it, too."
UH had that lineup on the floor for about 4 1/2 in the first half against the Broncos, and it seemed to be effective in catching athletic BSU off guard. The Rainbows, up 13-11, extended their lead to 19-12, but were forced to take Amis out of the game at "small" forward when he picked up his second foul. Arnold’s team held a two-point halftime advantage, but that was squandered as the Broncos pulled away for a 79-55 win.
Though Arnold didn’t go back to the big look in the second half and UH lost its fourth straight WAC game, he came away pleased with the experiment, especially considering how little it had been implemented in practice. The team first tried it the day before the game.
"I kind of liked it, to be honest with you," Arnold said yesterday. "Going back to the athleticism, we don’t have great, great athletes. We have good athletes. We have good team players. But we don’t have guys who can just take you off the dribble, that long wing that can move and cover a lot of ground. But the one thing we do have, we have some strength and some bulk. That’s something that could become an advantage for us, and we’ll probably try that big lineup again."
However, the LaTech game, more than New Mexico State, may be the time to take the giant for a walk. Arnold said the Rainbows may try to go small with two point guards to counteract the press-happy Aggies.
Joaquim and Kurtz are still amped for the chance to try it again on this road trip. The "Two-Headed Monster," as Arnold calls them, rarely get a chance to play together, as Kurtz typically spells Joaquim and vice versa.
"That’s awesome because all we do in there, me and Vander, is seal inside and post up," Kurtz said. "I really like it. I like it a lot. I think it can work, because every time we miss a shot we have three bigs, 6-10, 6-9 and 7-foot, crash the boards."
For Joaquim, it’s an adjustment, especially on defense where he plays outside of the paint to guard the wings.
"We’ve just gotta play more together, make our adjustments on defense this week in practice," said Joaquim, who has been one of the more consistent ‘Bows in WAC play with 12 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. "When we get in the game I think we’ll do much better."
While Amis was the third big in that formation on Saturday, Arnold said 6-7 forward Joston Thomas, who came off the bench for the first time this season vs. BSU, could slip into that spot.