A few inches separated a marquee home win from a painful loss. The Hawaii women’s basketball team would like to avoid feeling that again.
The Rainbow Wahine’s last chance to take down a high-caliber Western Athletic Conference opponent is tonight against second-place Fresno State at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Seventh-place UH (10-17, 4-10 WAC) came as close as any league opponent to knocking off Louisiana Tech earlier this season at the Sheriff. With the Wahine trailing by one with mere seconds left, freshman forward Kamilah Jackson had two free throws that could have won the game outright. The first shot was just off the mark; she made the second, forcing overtime, but the Wahine were outplayed in the extra period, and LaTech remains unbeaten (13-0) in WAC play.
» Fresno State (20-7, 11-2 WAC) at Hawaii (10-17, 4-10)
» Today, 5 p.m., at Stan Sheriff Center
» Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
UH has played to the level of its opponent all season, including a 55-53 squeaker over lowly San Jose State on Thursday night that all but clinched a WAC tournament berth. There is no reason to think the Wahine cannot hang with sharp-shooting Fresno, at least for a while, as they have won four of six games in the second half of WAC play.
Keep in mind that the FSU Bulldogs (20-7, 11-2) have tormented the Wahine in recent years. Adrian Wiggins’ team has won 10 straight in the series and 16 of the last 17, including a 79-57 blowout in Fresno on Jan. 24.
"Fresno has been the epitome of women’s basketball in the WAC," UH coach Dana Takahara-Dias said. "(Their success) is something we will try very hard to shoot for. … We fully expect to play hard regardless of who our opponent is. (Tonight) will be no different. … We’re going to build on the momentum of Thursday’s game."
Perimeter shooting has been an inconsistency all season for Takahara-Dias’ Wahine. But that is the staple of the Bulldogs, who average a WAC-best 75.7 points per game — 16 points more than Hawaii’s 59.7 — on nearly 10 3-pointers per game. By contrast, the Wahine knock down 3.3, which is about how many 3s FSU guard Jaleesa Ross makes every night.
Still, UH can become the first WAC team besides LaTech to knock off the three-time defending regular-season champions this season. To do so, they must cut down turnovers against a team adept at forcing them, and scramble to defend the perimeter.
"We’ve been working on that throughout this week, and we can’t falter," Takahara-Dias said. "They have an amazing ability to hit from the 3-point line."
The Wahine may have to do that without one of their best perimeter defenders. Freshman wing Shawna Kuehu is day-to-day with concussion-like symptoms.