LAS VEGAS » Louisiana Tech got the one that mattered.
The Hawaii women’s basketball team was unable to replicate its regular-season success against the storied Lady Techsters, falling 63-54 in the first round of the Western Athletic Conference tournament at the Orleans Arena.
Thanks to some untimely turnovers by the Rainbow Wahine and near-flawless free-throw shooting by LaTech, UH’s run of futility in WAC tournaments continued right to the end of the program’s stay in the league. The Wahine (11-19) head to the Big West Conference next season having lost 10 of their last 11 games in league tourneys.
This season-ending loss also concluded the three-year tenure of Dana Takahara-Dias as UH coach. But there was hope for a comeback win — and possibly a contract extension for Takahara-Dias — all the way to the final minute.
“We’ve always understood that basketball is a game of runs. And Louisiana made theirs, and we made some down the end,” Takahara-Dias said. “Big baskets on both sides. But I think the telltale sign was the ability to shoot free throws from Louisiana down the end to seal the victory.”
Sixth-seeded UH had the superior late-game execution this season in sweeping third-seeded LaTech (16-14) in two regular-season meetings for the first time. The Wahine seemingly matched up better, having held the Techsters to their two lowest point outputs of the season.
Not so with a WAC semifinal berth on the line — but it was closer than the final score indicated. Sophomore forward Kamilah Jackson fouled out with her 16th double-double of the season — 17 points and 16 rebounds. Sophomore wing Vicky Tagalicod had nine of her 13 points in the first half and point guard Alissa Campanero concluded her WAC all-freshman season with 12 points.
The Wahine were hurt by 19 turnovers to only eight for LaTech. The Techsters outscored the Wahine 17-6 on points off turnovers and stayed alive for a chance at a sixth WAC tourney title in 11 years.
“That ball is very precious,” LaTech coach Teresa Weatherspoon said. “I always tell them, ‘The ball is like your mom’s purse. Someone takes it, you better go get it back because your allowance is in there.’ “
With about 150 Hawaii fans plus the UH band in attendance, the Wahine rallied from a seven-point second-half deficit to take the lead at 44-42 on a Breanna Arbuckle basket with over 6 minutes left.
LaTech countered with a 7-0 spurt to take a 49-44 advantage with under 4 minutes to go.
There was new life when Jackson scored on a putback and got fouled, completing the three-point play to make it 53-51 with under a minute left.
But the Wahine committed a foul, boosting the Tech lead back to four, and UH had to then purposefully foul again to extend the game. Techsters point guard Jasmine Bendolph (game-high 20 points) hit six straight foul shots in the final minute to effectively end it. LaTech went 18-for-21 at the line.
LaTech advanced to face Utah State on Friday.
LOUISIANA TECH 63, HAWAII 54
RAINBOW WAHINE (11-19)
LADY TECHSTERS (16-14)
Key — fg-a: field goals made-attempted; ft-a: free throws made-attempted; rb: rebounds; pf: personal fouls; pts: total points; a: assists; to: turnovers; min: minutes played.
Halftime — Louisiana Tech 26, Hawaii 25
3-point goals — Hawaii 3-14 (Campanero 2-5, Tagalicod 1-4, Arbuckle 0-1, Gaddis 0-1, Haydel 0-1, Jackson 0-2). Louisiana Tech 3-12 (Felton 1-1, Bendolph 1-3, Jones 1-7, Hardy 0-1). Steals — Hawaii 2 (Arbuckle, Tagalicod). Louisiana Tech 7 (Frazier 3, Hayes 2, Anderson, Felton). Blocked shots — Hawaii 3 (Adolpho 2, Arbuckle). Louisiana Tech 1 (Hayes). Officials — Jacko Jones, Kyle Bacon, Julie Krommenhoek. A — not reported.