(Hawaii Athletics) - The University of Hawaii women's basketball team (12-18, 5-12 Big West) made an impressive rally but fell short in a 62-57 loss to CSUN (16-15, 9-8 Big West) in the opening round of the Big West Tournament Tuesday night at Titan Gym.
The loss marks the second consecutive season UH has been bounced out of the tournament by CSUN. Last year's loss came in the quarterfinals of the tournament at 71-64. The Matadors will now move on to face UC Irvine on Wednesday.
"We couldn't hit shots, and we turned the ball over a few times too many," said head coach Laura Beeman. "But we made a brilliant comeback in the second half behind some stellar defense and our full court press."
For the second straight game, UH got off to a slow start. The 'Bows missed their first seven shots from the field, and the Matadors took a double-digit lead, 11-1, just five minutes into the game.
The Rainbow Wahine stormed back and tied the game at 14-14 early in the second quarter. But the Bows shooting woes reared up again and put UH in another hole, trailing 33-21 at the break.
Senior guard Sarah Toeaina kept the Rainbow Wahine in the games with 13 points in the first half, hitting 4-of-6 from the floor and 5-of-6 from the charity stripe. As a team, UH struggled, hitting just 26 percent from the floor, including 1-of-9 from beyond the arc.
The Matadors built on their lead over UH in the 3rd frame with a 16-point advantage, but it was shaved down to 10 at the start of the fourth stanza. The edge kept dwindling as UH trailed by just three with 46 seconds on the clock at 60-57.
After a combined three missed shots, two offensive rebounds, and a timeout by CSUN. UH forced a five-second violation with nine seconds left to go in regulation. The 'Bows advanced the ball to their side of the floor after a timeout of their own, but forward Tessa Boagni tipped away the inbounds pass, gained possession and drew a foul. Boagni converted both free throws, putting the game out of reach for UH.
Senior guard Sarah Toeaina finished with a game-high 24 points and claimed the No. 9 spot on the UH all-time scoring list with 1,204 total points over her four years. The performance by the two-time All-Big West First Teamer was the tenth game this season where she scored 20 points or more with six of those being against conference opponents.
"You don't replace someone like Sarah (Toeaina)," said Beeman. "She's a remarkable athlete on the court but what you don't see is what she does behind the scenes. The culture that she has helped create with high morals and high standards is something that will permeate our locker room from here on out. There's a standard in our locker room of love and support where you represent the state of Hawai'i the right way, and she has done it for four years.
Junior forward Lahni Salanoa and sophomore guard Julissa Tago added 11 points apiece, as Tago finished one rebound shy of her first double-double of the season with a game-high nine boards.
Junior guard Tia Kanoa notched a career-high 12 assists, tying the UH record for most assists in a single-game, a record she now shares with Tricia Stringham from Mar. 3, 1992 against New Mexico State.
Two-time Big West Player of the Year Channon Fluker led CSUN with 24 points of her own, along with a team-high eight rebounds.
UH wrapped the 2017-18 season, with the same record as a year ago at 12-18 overall.
"There's a challenge for these young ladies," said Beeman. "Not going to the postseason for the University of Hawai'i is not acceptable and it has to stop. Our offseason is going to start with a thunder."