LONG BEACH, CALIF. >> Hawaii picked up its first Big West tournament victory since rejoining the conference in women’s basketball in a 52-49 second-round defeat of Long Beach State on Wednesday night.
With UH clinging to a one-point lead, point guard Morgan Mason came up with a huge steal in the paint and got fouled with 6.9 seconds left. She made both free throws sandwiched around a LBSU timeout for a three-point lead. The 49ers called timeout again, but their desperation 3 to tie was off the mark.
Third-seeded UH advanced to face second-seeded Cal Poly in Friday’s semifinals at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
The last Wahine conference tournament victory came in the 2009 WAC play-in game, 70-57 against San Jose State. The last time UH got to a league semifinal was in 2003, when UH lost to Louisiana Tech 85-58.
UH (17-12) equaled last seasons’s win total despite being tasked with beating the 49ers on their home court at the Walter Pyramid. The Wahine were also without leading scorer and rebounder Kamilah Jackson for a seventh straight game.
“You know, I’m really proud of these young ladies to come and beat a team on their home court, their home crowd, in their home locker room. Sleeping in their beds,” UH coach Laura Beeman said. “That was a tough, tough, insurmountable task. And we found a way to do it.
“We had some hurdles we had to jump and we jumped them tonight.”
Junior wing Ashleigh Karaitiana came off the bench to score a game-high 18 points and grab eight rebounds. She sank four of five 3-point attempts. Shawna Kuehu added eight points.
UH shot just 32.1 percent overall but went 7-for-14 on 3-pointers. LBSU attempted 24 3s making only four (16.7 percent).
A seven-point UH halftime lead evaporated within the first six minutes of the second half as the 49ers used a 12-0 run to go up 33-30. UH opened the period shooting 1-for-11.
It was back and forth from there. The Wahine recaptured the lead temporarily at 34-33 with back-to-back breakaway hoops by Karaitiana and Kuehu.
Karaitiana hit her fourth 3 for a 48-47 lead with 2:15 left.
Kuehu sank two free throws for a 50-49 advantage with 1:41 remaining.
UH had a chance to extend its lead. Kuehu missed from 17 feet, UH got the rebound but Morgan Mason missed on a drive.
LBSU grabbed the rebound and called for time with 27.9 seconds left. That’s where Mason got her key steal.
LBSU shot just 24.2 percent in the first half, including 1-for-17 (5.9 percent) on 3s. In contrast, the Wahine sunk four of seven from long range.
Karaitiana hit one from the top of the arc for the last quality shot of the period and the Wahine led 27-20 headed into halftime.