How badly did Thursday night’s 71-45 rout at the hands of Illinois State hurt Hawaii’s pride?
We’re about to find out.
The bottom fell out in the second half of the Diamond Head Classic first-round game for UH (4-6), which looked lifeless in the fashion of the Rainbow Warriors’ first half against Princeton. UH coach Eran Ganot — while qualifying it with his usual line that team failures begin with him — ripped his group afterward for straight-up not trying.
“It was about as poor an effort that a team could put out. And that’s a shame,” he said.
The ‘Bows scored some garbage points in the final seconds, preventing them from finishing with their lowest point total since 1998. It was their fewest since 45 in a 2011 home game against Idaho, and their 25.5 percent shooting set a DHC record for futility.
So now comes Utah, the only Power Five team in the tournament. Just like against ISU, UH will need something approximating its best effort — basically the opposite of Thursday. Maybe even a perfect game against the towering Runnin’ Utes.
Last time these teams met, it was in the 2010 Diamond Head consolation semifinals. Utah was still in the Mountain West and was struggling mightily. Zane Johnson’s 17 points (four 3-pointers) led UH to a 13-point victory.
The next season, Larry Krystkowiak stepped in as coach and guided the Utes into the Pac-12, where they’ve rediscovered success. Krystkowiak, a former NBA coach, is still there in his sixth season.
They had some foul luck Thursday, though, as big man Kyle Kuzma sprained his right ankle less than a minute into Utah’s 89-86 loss to San Francisco. Guard Sedrick Barefield, an SMU transfer, nearly led his new team to a win anyway. He scored 35 points, the third-most in DHC history, but was called for a (questionable) charge with the game on the line in the final seconds.
Kuzma, who was averaging a double-double before he went down, sounds doubtful to play today. But the Utes (7-3) have plenty of other weapons at their disposal. UH’s former WAC foil is favored by 9.5 points.
Barefield and 6-foot-10 David Collette have been Utah’s go-to players since they became eligible at semester break two games ago. Collette transferred from Utah State, where he was a third-team all-Mountain West player.
The all-time series stands at 47-10 for Utah — that’s 13 more wins than any other D-I program has against the Rainbow Warriors (BYU, 34). UH’s 68-55 win in 2010 snapped a nine-game losing streak to UU.
CORRECTION: BYU’s 34 wins against UH is actually fourth among D-I opponents. New Mexico is second (41) and UTEP is third (35).
For the early Diamond Head games of the day, San Diego State routed Tulsa 82-63 to get back to the tournament championship game (2012). Stephen F. Austin came back from down 15 points to edge Southern Miss 67-64 in the consolation semifinals. And presently, Illinois State is up two on San Francisco at halftime in the second semifinal.
If UH wins, it will face Stephen F. Austin at 9:30 a.m. on Christmas. If UH loses, it will face Southern Miss at the same time.