Wallace gives Tatum custody of UH offense
The senior guard called nearly all of the plays in the win over Santa Clara
Even with Julian Sensley making nearly every shot he tossed toward the rim Saturday night, Hawaii basketball coach Riley Wallace didn't make a special effort to call plays designed to get the senior forward the ball.
He didn't have to.
Instead of controlling the action from the bench, Wallace has handed the controls of the UH offense to point guard Deonte Tatum, who Wallace watched guide the Rainbow Warriors to a comeback win over Santa Clara.
"If you don't have the leadership out on the floor then ... we've got to call everything. I've turned that over to Deonte," Wallace said. "I can overrule at any time or I can make a special call, which I did maybe four or five times tonight. All the rest of them are his calls."
Tatum's development as a floor leader and his understanding of the UH system convinced Wallace to give the senior from Milwaukee, Wis., the freedom to run the UH offense on the fly.
Tatum rewarded his coach's faith by helping UH to the 67-57 win in Saturday's nonconference game at the Stan Sheriff Center.
He finished the game with 12 points and eight assists and turned the ball over three times. He contributed to UH's second-half rally from a double-digit deficit with six assists and no turnovers. He also hit a key 3-pointer to give UH control late in the game.
"With the leadership and the confidence he has in his teammates and the unselfishness that he has as that point guard now, he's able to orchestrate," Wallace said after the game. "He knows who's hot and where they want to get it. He knows the offense well enough now to know what to call and it's like an extension of the bench."
While running the offense, Tatum has also increased his personal point production recently as UH has won four of its last five games heading into its final road trip of the regular-season.
The Rainbows (14-9, 7-5 Western Athletic Conference) departed Honolulu yesterday and resume league play at Idaho (4-19, 1-10) on Wednesday and at San Jose State (6-19, 2-9) on Saturday.
Tatum, who averages 5.4 points per game in his two seasons with the Rainbows, has scored in double figures in five of the last six games. He also has 23 assists against just 10 turnovers over the same span.
He transferred to UH last season and started the first 15 games at the point as a junior. But his struggles landed him on the bench and he finished his first season with the Rainbows playing limited minutes.
Upon returning to Manoa in the fall, Tatum quickly established himself as a team leader, winning the trust of the coaching staff and the respect of his teammates, who elected him and Sensley co-captains.
"They elected him captain because they see how he came back this year and he had that feel, saying, 'I don't care what anybody says about last year, this is my senior year and I'm going to have a good year,' " Wallace said.
"That's exactly what he's doing and he's running that ballclub."
Which is why the coach could rely on Tatum's judgment when Sensley caught fire in the second half of Saturday's game. Sensley scored 16 straight points for UH in a pivotal stretch.
Sensley went 7-for-11 from the field in the second half, including 4-for-5 from beyond the 3-point arc, and finished with 25 points.
"Tay kept telling me, 'I'm going to get you the ball,' and he was able to do that," Sensley said. "We feed off each other. One day it might be Lojo (guard Matt Lojeski). One day it may be Ahmet (Gueye). Whoever's got that hot hand you just have to get him the ball. I wasn't forcing shots, I was just getting the ball in the right places."
"All of that comes from getting him the ball on time," Wallace said. "He was able to get loose and get in a rhythm for his shots."
The Rainbows enter this week's road trip tied with New Mexico State for fourth place in the conference and will try to continue their late-season roll this week against the bottom two teams in the WAC.
"Hopefully, we can carry this on the road. We have to keep the same kind of focus we had in the second half," Sensley said. "We can't let anything else distract us and I think if we do that, we'll come out on top."