Hawaii basketball coach Laura Beeman opened her postgame comments on Saturday by expressing admiration for the Rainbow Wahine’s effort against Stanford.
UH led the fifth-ranked Cardinal early, fell behind by double digits but stayed within shouting distance for most of the evening before falling 86-73 on Saturday in the Waikiki Beach Marriott Rainbow Wahine Shootout.
"Unbelievably proud of this group of girls," Beeman said. "The expectations have risen and we’re going to continue to battle the best."
But a moral victory? Not so much.
"The whole term moral victory doesn’t work for this group," Beeman said. "We were in the game, we could have won it — just like Cal, we could have won the game.
"(Two) years ago we would have sat here and gone, ‘Great game, we’re so proud, let’s have a fun night.’ That’s not where we are."
UH dropped a seven-point game to No. 14 California just over a week earlier, and compared to a 69-42 loss to Stanford in Beeman’s first season, the Wahine were far more competitive this time around and Saturday’s performance provided a benchmark for the program’s progress over the past two years and the previous 24 hours.
"It shows a lot of growth, it also shows what our mistakes do when good teams are in play," said junior Destiny King, one of two UH players to suit up for both Stanford games. "It shows we need to stay focused on the little things. "(Beeman) talked in the locker room about defense and that is who we are as Hawaii … and we need to step that up."
Beeman was perturbed by UH’s turnover, free-throw and rebounding numbers following a 72-58 win over Prairie View A&M on Friday. UH improved in all three areas on Saturday in committing a season-low seven turnovers while hitting 26 of 31 free throws (a season-best 83.9 percent) and limiting Stanford to nine offensive rebounds.
But the Wahine couldn’t match Stanford’s firepower from the perimeter as the Cardinal bounced back from a rough performance in a loss to North Carolina on Friday to hit 12 of 18 attempts from 3-point range while shooting 57.4 percent from the field.
Stanford sophomore Lili Thompson, who attended Punahou early in her high school career before moving to the mainland, went 6-for-7 from 3-point range in scoring a game-high 26 points, two short of her career high, to go along with five assists.
"I thought our team just relaxed a little bit," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said in reference to the 31 percent shooting night against UNC. "I thought we just played with a lot more energy. And I thought (point guard) Amber (Orrange) did a great job of pushing the tempo."
Orrange added 19 points and dished out eight assists as the Cardinal repeatedly found open shooters behind the arc.
"They’re very, very intelligent basketball players and they find areas to capitalize," Beeman said.
Wahine senior Shawlina Segovia countered with four 3-pointers and led four UH players in double figures with 17 points. King finished with 13 and Ashleigh Karaitiana and Morgan Mason scored 11 each. Karaitiana had a career-high seven steals but struggled on the offensive end while going 3-for-10 from the field and missing all five 3-point attempts.
UH senior Shawna-Lei Kuehu played just 11 minutes, limited by two fouls in the first half and sidelined by a knee injury early in the second. Beeman said it was "probably a bruise, but I don’t think it’s anything significant at this point."
Freshman Sarah Toeaina stepped in and provided six points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes.
The Wahine went on an 8-0 run early in the game, but with King and Kuehu on the bench with two fouls each, the Cardinal broke away with a 20-4 surge sparked by three Thompson 3-pointers and led 48-34 at halftime.
UH outscored the Cardinal 39-38 in the second half and closed to within six on Toeaina’s 3-pointer with 11:03 left.
But a Karlie Samuelson 3-pointer helped the Cardinal maintain control.
The Wahine won’t have long to dwell on what might have been. They close the tournament on Sunday against No. 11 North Carolina.
"North Carolina’s a different beast we have to be ready for," Mason said. "Seeing them play Prairie View earlier, it’s going to be an eye-opener for a lot of us and we have to be able to match their intensity not only on offense but on defense. They’re a good team, but we can play Hawaii basketball and compete with them on any level."
NO. 5 STANFORD 86, HAWAII 73
RAINBOW WAHINE (4-2)
Key — min: minutes played; fg-a: field goals made-attempted; ft-a: free throws made-attempted; rb: rebounds; pf: personal fouls; pts: total points.
Halftime — Stanford 48, Hawaii 34 3-point goals — Stanford 12-18 (Thompson 6-7, K. Samuelson 2-2, B. Samuelson 2-3, Orrange 2-4, Greenfield 0-2). Hawaii 5-18 (Segovia 4-5, Toeaina 1-1, Mason 0-2, King 0-2, Harris 0-3, Karaitiana 0-5). Steals — Stanford 4 (Orrange 2, Thompson, Greenfield). Hawaii 9 (Karaitiana 7, Kuehu, Harris). Turnovers — Stanford 15 (Thompson 3, Kay. Johnson 3, Orrange 2, K. Samuelson 2, Kai. Johnson 2, Greenfield, Roberson, McPhee). Hawaii 7 (Segovia 2, Karaitiana, Mason, Morris, King, Toeaina). Assists — Stanford 16 (Orrange 8, Thompson 5, Kay. Johnson, Greenfield, Roberson). Hawaii 10 (Mason 3, Karaitiana 2, Kuehu, Morris, King, Harris, Segovia). Blocked shots — Stanford 4 (Kay. Johnson 2, Thompson, Kai. Johnson). Hawaii none. Technical fouls — Stanford none. Hawaii none. Officials — Charles Gonzalez, Darren Krzesnik, Patrick Black-Santiago. A — 1,383.