UH's Coleman brings value, even when he's not scoring

Jan. 17—Hawaii basketball coach Eran Ganot was not in panic mode when guard Noel Coleman did not score in the final 16 minutes, 14 seconds against Cal State Northridge.

There was no self-Heimlich arm crossing when Coleman was shut out against UC Irvine, nor when the tri-captain missed both first-half shots against UC Riverside on Saturday.

"Worry is a tough word," Ganot said following the loss to UCI. "Worry can lead to thinking there's a lack of confidence. There's no lack of confidence in Noel. Noel is fine. He'll be great. ... He's bounced back before, he'll bounce back again."

Ganot's confidence was reinforced when Coleman scored 10 second-half points and finished with eight rebounds in the Rainbow Warriors' victory over UC Riverside.

"We know who he is," Ganot said. "He's a mature, professional senior captain who's been through it," Ganot said. "Like the other day, you can talk about his 10 points in the second (half) and what he did in the first half. But the whole game, he was defending. He's been defending the whole year against really good players. He had eight rebounds. He spreads the floor for you ... finding other ways to impact the game."

Coleman will face Long Beach State for the eighth time when the 'Bows play in the Walter Pyramid on Thursday in Long Beach, Calif. Coleman played the Beach in 2019 as a University of San Diego freshman. Since joining UH in 2020, the 'Bows have won five of the six meetings. He averaged 17.3 points in the past four games against the Beach.

"It's just another away game for me," Coleman said.

It also will be another challenging matchup for Coleman, who will be assigned 6-foot-6 AJ George, 6-5 Jadon Jones or 5-8 Messiah Thompson. In Saturday's loss to UC Santa Barbara, Thompson scored a career-high 23. In Big West games, Coleman has helped contain UC Riverside's Isaiah Moses (four points on 1-for-8 shooting), UCI's Justin Hohn (12 points) and CSUN's Dioante Bostick (11). At 6-2, Coleman is quick, physical and capable of a 40-inch vertical jump.

"I've always been known more for my defense than anything else," Coleman said. "I try to contribute any way needed for the team."

Coleman prepares by poring over scouting reports, studying video and going against point guards and wings in practice. "See what (an opponent) does well, see what he doesn't do well, and try to force him to his weak spots," Coleman said.

Coleman acknowledged he is the focus of opposing teams' game plans. "It's great that they have a scout like that on me," Coleman said. "It opens up a lot of other guys. I'm willing to do whatever it takes for the team to win. If that means staying off the ball and having lanes open up for other people, that's great."

With defenses swarming to Coleman at the perimeters, that clears room in the post for center Bernardo da Silva and Justin McKoy.

"They're getting to go isolation, one on one, because Noel's out on the court," Ganot said. "We have to make people pay for that so it comes back around for Noel. That's a testament to his leadership and maturity to hand in there and find other ways to impact the game."