’Bows rely on each other to make defense work
Hawaii has tweaked its D into something more team oriented
It's a seemingly subtle change that has produced significant results.
Man-to-man remains the core of the Hawaii basketball team's defensive philosophy, but the Rainbow Warriors have added a little edge to the basic scheme.
Hawaii vs. Louisiana Tech
When: Tomorrow, 7:05 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
Promotion: Fans with tickets to the UH-Pacific baseball game tomorrow are eligible for a $15 ticket to the basketball game.
"It's not man-to-man defense," UH associate coach Bob Nash said. "It's 'team' man-to-man defense."
After struggling to keep opponents from getting to the rim in one-on-one matchups, the Rainbows shifted their focus to funneling the ball into areas where teammates can provide help, then keeping them on that side of the court.
"Now we're sending them where we want," head coach Riley Wallace said. "We've got the help already ready and they can recover better."
The adjustment has coincided with a sharp decrease in the points the Rainbows have surrendered. Over their first six Western Athletic Conference games, Hawaii opponents averaged 74.2 points per game, while shooting 44 percent from the field.
In the four games since, the 'Bows have surrendered 56 points per game and limited opponents to 31.3 percent shooting. For the season, opponents are shooting 39.5 percent against UH, good for second in the conference and 21st in the country.
More importantly, they are 3-1 over that stretch and came within a hair of upsetting No. 12 Nevada last Saturday.
"It's big mental change," forward P.J. Owsley said. "Everybody working together, and everybody realizing we need to play defense as a team to win games.
"It keeps the play on one side, so being able to help is a lot easier than not knowing which way they're going to be going."
The new scheme will be put to a stern test over a stretch of four games in eight days, starting with tomorrow's WAC game against Louisiana Tech at the Stan Sheriff Center.
"This will be the biggest test we've had with this defense," Nash said of the rematch with the Bulldogs. "Then you've got New Mexico State coming in (on Monday) and they're the same way -- they're athletic, take you off the dribble."
It was the Rainbows' struggles against athletic teams who could use their quickness to get to the basket, like the Bulldogs -- who beat UH 70-67 on Jan. 6 in Ruston and have won six straight over the Rainbows -- and Aggies that prompted the adjustment.
After being swept by Idaho and Boise State to drop to 1-5 in the WAC last month, Wallace gave Nash his blessing to try something new while the head coach was out with the flu. Nash implemented the changes over the next two days of practice leading up to UH's game against San Jose State and Wallace gave it the go-ahead on game day.
"They were playing with so much confidence you wanted to go with it," Wallace said.
By overplaying to one side of the opponent, the UH defenders look to move the flow of the offense to an area. While the guards try to dictate the direction of the offense, it's up to the big men to provide the help. It's a tactic that requires faith in each other.
"You have to trust your teammates," guard/forward Riley Luettgerodt said. "If you're forcing the guy one way you have to have trust that your teammate's going to be in that gap to help you out."
"You're keeping them on the side so you can play more five on three," guard Matt Lojeski said. "We know that if you get beat you have help, you have teammates who have your back and you don't have to rely on playing one-on-one. We're getting better at it and it's a lot more fun."
The team has also taken to having the starters run the opposing offense against the scout team in practice to help in recognizing the sets during games.
"All of a sudden we say 'turn it around,' now (the starters) haven't had any practice in it, but they should know where the cuts are going to come from they should be able to run the offense if they've been paying attention," Nash said.
Lojeski healing: Lojeski is in wait-and-see mode after sitting out yesterday's practice. The senior aggravated an injury to his right foot on Wednesday. He said it's day-to-day and wasn't sure if he'd be back for this afternoon's workout. The senior said Wednesday that he plans to play against Louisiana Tech.
Luettgerodt has been at shooting guard in Lojeski's absence.