Little Matt dishes out more than assists this season
YOU could see the way Matt Gibson was looking at his teammate, the intensity of it, eyes searing. Jaw jutting. Eye bandage ... bandaging.
And when that didn't work he went over, a slight tap on the hip, leaning over, right into his friend's face. Hey. Hey! Get this message. He wasn't kidding around.
You shoot that ball, Gibson was telling an unsure Matt Lojeski, Gibson getting right in his face. Don't you dare hesitate. This is serious. Hey! You understand me? You shoot it. You shoot that #$$%&^*& ball.
Imagine that, Little Matt Gibson, telling someone else to start launching it up.
But that's who he is, these days, believe it or not. And you already know what happened for these Rainbows last night.
Lojeski went crazy, the man just about couldn't miss. He hit again and again, 33 points, in a 76-60 Hawaii win to take the Rainbow Classic yet again. It was insane, the way his shooting kept killing a tough Creighton team, one that will be playing deep into March.
But that's not the story, not really. That happens. Shooters have streaks. Yes, Lojeski was on fire, but that's not a revelation, not in itself.
Lojeski was on fire, but it was Gibson who gave it to him, Gibson who ignited everybody, last night, Gibson who led this team, willed this team.
He was everywhere.
Every loose ball was his.
He set the tone. He set the pace.
Little Matt, a leader.
And that's been the question for this program, hasn't it, these last couple of years? Who will take charge? Who do you want with you? Who is that guy?
Unless my eyes deceive me, the Rainbows found him, last night.
Gibson, who was suspended last season, who banged heads with Riley Wallace, who didn't play great defense, who never met a shot he didn't like. This is That Guy?
Call me crazy. Call me irresponsible. Call me borderline blind. But last night he fit the bill.
In Lojeski you have your scorer. In Ahmet Gueye you have your great player. In Gibson you have your stallion, the guy gets the team to run with him, the guy who sets the tone, sets the pace.
It's incredible. He gives Hawaii the best of both worlds, now. Good Matt and Manic Matt. He gives the Rainbows his trademark intensity with a newfound sense of purpose, new poise.
He took one 3. He made it. It was huge.
Oh, there were a couple of charges. Gibson shook his head. Wallace pointed to his. The guy isn't perfect. You take the good with the bad.
He fouled out with 2:16 left. Still crazy after all these years.
He went wild on the bench as the 'Bows wrapped it up. He was a gunner. Now he's a winner.
He threw his towel in the air, as the final horn blared. Bobby Nash leapt into his arms. Then Lojeski, too. This was a big one, a huge one, this Rainbow Classic final. A great win against a quality team, a March Madness team.
Afterward, Gibson hugged that trophy, held it close.
Lojeski was on fire. It was Gibson who gave it to him. He gave it to everybody, last night. That's a gift. It's what leaders do.