The 20th win came the hard way.
Cal State-Fullerton didn’t roll over, but the University of Hawaii basketball team prevailed and coach Gib Arnold gets his.
There’s no contract extension for the Rainbow Warriors seniors, but the gritty 81-77 win Saturday that nearly slipped away twice refuels hope for at least some UH fans that their team can heat up and make a run through this week’s Big West tournament.
But remember, if not for an inexplicable unnecessary wild shot from close to half court by Fullerton’s Michael Williams the outcome could have been different and the perception of success this week much murkier.
As things stand, the reality is UH has continued the trend of losing more than it wins down the home stretch. Even with Saturday’s win, the Rainbow Warriors have lost three of their last five. Last year they lost their last four. In 2012 it was seven of the last eight and four of the last five in 2011.
You can blame the wear and tear of the road, but that disturbing trend is still there — Hawaii doesn’t play as well in March as it does in the other months.
This team will always give great effort, but sometimes fatigue overrules will, and that can cost you games as nearly happened Saturday against the smallest team in the conference.
The Rainbow Warriors only outrebounded the tiny Titans by one.
UH prevailed on senior night for the first time in three years, which makes those parting shots for Christian Standhardinger, Brandon Spearman and Davis Rozitis much sweeter.
But could this also have been the final regular-season home game in a UH uniform for sophomore Isaac Fotu?
The prodigy says publicly he plans to return to Manoa. But I’m told another pro offer from New Zealand is on the horizon — and it would be more lucrative than the three-year, $300,000 deal he spurned after last season.
Fotu will have to be re-recruited somehow. But one of the key guys in getting him to UH, assistant coach Brandyn Akana, is still serving a mysterious suspension that the school has not yet explained.
How that all plays out is as important or more to the program’s future as anything that happens next week in Anaheim.
If there’s an X-factor for UH in the tournament, I think it is shooting guard Garrett Nevels. If he heats up from 3-point range, the Rainbow Warriors literally have a shot.
In the first half Saturday he was victim of what I call senior night syndrome. You often see this happen when underclassmen defer to the guys playing their last game — a nice gesture, but it can mess up your flow.
Nevels didn’t score until he hit a free throw more than 12 minutes into the game, and didn’t make his first basket until the 3:26 mark. He finished with 14 points, but was just 6-for-15 from the floor including 1-for-5 on 3s.
Fotu had no such early shyness, hitting with his patented spin move, a power drive and an 18-footer in the first 150 seconds.
After all, this might have been his senior night.
Reach Dave Reardon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 529-4783. Read his blog at staradvertiser.com/quickreads.