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Wahine win Big West tourney opener

Brian McInnis
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DARRELL MIHO/SPECIAL TO THE STAR ADVERTISER

University of Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine Olivia Crawford takes a shot against the Cal Poly Mustangs during a first round game Tuesday night at the Big West Tournament at the Walter Pyramid. UH won the game 71-50.

LONG BEACH, CALIF. >> Olivia Crawford scored a career-high 21 points and the Hawaii women’s basketball team never trailed in a 71-50 win over Cal Poly in the Big West tournament opening round tonight at the Walter Pyramid.

Sixth-seeded UH (12-17) will face third-seeded Cal State Northridge (17-13) in the second round on Wednesday at 4 p.m. Hawaii time at Long Beach State’s Pyramid.

All-Big West first-teamer Sarah Toeaina was held to seven points, but the Rainbow Wahine still managed to beat the Mustangs (11-18) for a third time this season.

Crawford provided a huge lift, hitting shot after shot to keep her team afloat and countering Cal Poly center Hannah Gilbert’s 26 points on 12-for-23 shooting. The 5-foot-5 sophomore guard even grabbed eight rebounds. Briana Harris added 18 points on 3-for-3 3-point shooting.

UH jumped out to a 10-2 lead on the strength of its jump shooting and led by five points after a quarter. Scoring dried up in the second; one of UH’s makes came when Harris banked in a top-arc 3 to beat the shot clock.

UH carried a 28-21 lead into the half, despite getting outscored 18-2 in the paint behind Gilbert. Gilbert shot 7-for-10 in the first half for 14 points, but the rest of the Mustangs were 2-for-20 for seven points.

The Wahine extended their lead to their largest to that point, 32-23, on a pair of free throws by Harris early in the third.

Crawford hit her career-best fourth 3-pointer with 4:57 left in the third, answered by Gilbert’s and-1 chance at the other end. Crawford kept it going on a tough drive.

Leah Salanoa buried a 3, offset by Gilbert’s three-point play. But Crawford nailed her fifth trey and Salanoa hit a confident step-back triple to push the lead to 15. It was 51-37 after three.

Crawford’s difficult leaner beat the shot clock and kept UH ahead 57-43 with 7:36 remaining. Harris connected on a 3 to go up 17. Cal Poly went to pressing and UH beat it repeatedly to extend the lead further.

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