(HAWAII ATHLETICS) – Despite a furious 17-point comeback in the fourth quarter, the University of Hawai'i women's basketball team (9-14, 2-8 Big West) dropped their sixth straight road contest on Saturday at UC Santa Barbara (8-13, 5-4 Big West) in The Thunderdome, falling 71-61 to the Gauchos.
Trailing by 23 points with 1:49 remaining in the third quarter, the Rainbow Wahine made their move after only one field goal in just under three minutes. Coming off the bench, sophomore guard Julissa Tago's jumper sparked UH to an 11-2 run that extended to the middle of the fourth frame.
With under five minutes to go, the Gauchos and Rainbow Wahine traded blows with the deficit halved, but the 'Bows had one more run in their pocket. Junior point guard Tia Kanoa drove the lane to get UH started again, senior star Sarah Toeaina knocked down a pair of free throws and then Kanoa did it once more, grabbing a steal and driving down for the layup to slice the margin to eight points.
Finishing off a 21-point second half performance, Toeaina logged a three-point play and a pair of jumpers in the paint, twice slicing the difference to its lowest at just six points. However, the Gauchos held UH to just one more field goal and responded with eight consecutive free throws to secure the 71-61 finish.
Saturday's contest opened as a low-scoring affair. After UCSB jumped to a 4-0 lead through the first three minutes, Tago and Jadynn Alexander got things moving for UH. As the Gauchos and 'Bows traded shots to the tune of six lead changes and four ties, a single-possession game extended through 10 minutes of action.
Turnovers and UCSB's press break took its toll early in the second quarter, as the Gauchos outscored the 'Bows 13-2 across an eight-minute stretch to set the tone, heading into the second half with a 10-point advantage.
Toeaina finished with 25 points and five rebounds, tying her second-highest scoring total. Her career scoring total moves to 1,065 points, surpassing Destiny King (2013-16), Jeanne Wade (1984-87) and Jade Abele (2002-05) to become the 16th-highest scoring Rainbow Wahine in program history.
Kanoa tied her career high with 14 points, racking up nine assists and three steals on the afternoon. Getting the 'Bows started early, Alexander scored a career-high six points.
The Rainbow Wahine return home next week for a single contest at the Stan Sheriff Center. UH faces Cal State Fullerton at 7:00 p.m. HT on Feb. 3. The Titans topped UH 69-57 on Jan. 4 and fell to UC Irvine at home on Wednesday.