(HAWAII ATHLETICS) – The University of Hawai'i women's basketball team (9-12, 2-6 Big West) snapped a three-game losing skid on Saturday, pulling away from UC Riverside (6-16, 3-5 Big West) in the second half for the 63-57 Military Appreciation Night victory at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Employing aggressive pace of play and a full-court press throughout, the Rainbow Wahine disrupted passing lanes and knocked shots off balance, forcing numerous Highlander scoring droughts to hold UCR 17 points under its average.
Although the Rainbow Wahine led for over 32 minutes of Thursday's league contest, the response when trailing exposed Hawai'i's will to win, carrying a scoring run to a permanent lead. After UH jumped out to an early advantage, the Highlanders turned the tide in the second quarter, knotting things up at 24 with just over four minutes remaining before halftime. Despite a crucial three-pointer by forward Amy Atwell in the closing seconds of the half, UCR's Skylar Lewis sprinted the floor and produced a three-point play to grant the Highlanders a 31-29 halftime bump.
In the first half, UC Riverside ran their offense through the block, scoring 16 in the paint.
Coming out of the break, the Rainbow Wahine defense checked the Highlanders to the tune of an 11-0 run, opening with consecutive lane cuts by Sarah Toeaina to pull UH back in front. Hawai'i expanded the advantage to a game-high 12 points on Lahni Salanoa's three drained from the left arc with 1:01 to go in the third.
With all the drama required of a slump-breaking win, defensive efforts were the story of the game's final period. After the Highlanders chipped the UH lead down to seven at 7:34, Hawai'i's defense forced UCR to miss nine consecutive shots. However, across a six-minute stretch, the Rainbow Wahine saw six turnovers and four from the Highlanders, leading to four scoreless minutes for both teams.
The Rainbow Wahine weren't quite out of the woods with the clock winding down, as Tianna Eaton put away a pair of free throws and a jumper for UCR to draw the deficit to just three points with 17 seconds to go. Point guard Tia Kanoa and forward Makenna Woodfolk combined to make 3-of-4 free throws in the closing moments to extend UH to its final advantage in the 63-57 win.
Toeaina led UH in scoring with 19 points, notching her sixth consecutive double-figure game, grabbing four rebounds. Although UH produced only one double-digit scorer, Atwell, Kanoa and Woodfolk each scored nine apiece. Making her second start, junior Rachel Odumu paced the team with a career-high six rebounds, while Kanoa recorded seven assists.
The Rainbow Wahine head back to the mainland next week, meeting Cal Poly on Thursday (Feb. 1). The Mustangs (11-8, 5-2 BWC) defeated Cal State Fullerton on Thursday at home, 72-63.