Hawaii men’s basketball coach Gib Arnold figures there are three types of teams in early March. Those that beat themselves, those that stay consistent and those that keep improving.
» Who: Hawaii (17-10, 7-7 WAC) at San Jose State (15-12, 5-9)
No matter what the results show, win or lose, on the Rainbow Warriors’ final Western Athletic Conference road trip this week, the first-year coach puts more importance on whether his team stakes its territory among the third group.
Fifth-place UH (17-10, 7-7 WAC) has won eight of its past 10 games, but faces two difficult senior night scenarios this week, at seventh-place San Jose State (15-12, 5-9) tomorrow and at eighth-place Fresno State (13-15, 5-9) on Saturday.
Then it’s off to the WAC tournament in Las Vegas next week without looking back. UH won’t fly home with its opening game on March 9 or 10, depending on final seeding.
"Our expectations are we just want to keep getting a little bit better every game and every practice," Arnold said before UH left on a direct flight for San Jose, Calif., yesterday afternoon. "We’ve been pretty solid and showing just little incremental improvement every week. And that’s good, you want to play your best ball in March, and from Day 1 that’s kind of been our goal to set up where we are. If we can stay healthy, then I think we will continue to improve."
UH won’t be 100 percent against the Spartans, winners of four straight, but the Rainbows have their big guns intact. The team flew out minus freshman forward Trevor Wiseman, who will remain behind to focus on schoolwork and meet up with the team before the regular-season finale against the FSU Bulldogs. Sophomore forward Joston Thomas, UH’s third-leading scorer (9.4 average) who faded to a reserve role last week, could see prominent playing time again.
Senior point guard Hiram Thompson’s progress has been limited coming back from ligament damage around his left elbow. He will make the trip, but isn’t expected to play tomorrow. Speedy junior Miah Ostrowski, one of the biggest reasons for UH’s late-season surge, will take Thompson’s place for the fourth straight game. To him, continuous improvement means a split of the California swing would be a disappointment, considering that UH has won three of its past four on the road.
"That was at the beginning of the year, that was our expectation," said Ostrowski, who’s averaged seven assists in recent wins over UC Davis, Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State. "But now that we broke the ice and we’re on a winning streak, any loss is unexpected."
Over those three games, UH has gotten 23.3 points and 6.0 3-pointers per game from junior guard Zane Johnson, while senior forward Bill Amis added 17.3 points and 7.0 rebounds and sophomore center Vander Joaquim went for 14.3 points and 10.3 boards.