Any “hope” of a Hope International upset over the short-handed Rainbow Wahine was quickly dashed. Missing two members of a lineup that had started every game this season, the University of Hawai‘i women’s basketball team overcame some early hiccups to take down the Royals 86-49. The Wahine (6-5) were without their second leading scorer, redshirt junior Amy Atwell, as well as maestro Nae Nae Calhoun. The true freshman point guard currently leads the ‘Bows with 31 assists this season. And yet, the team put up its highest scoring output of the season, crossing the 30-point threshold for the first time since early 2018. The team last achieved the feat in a losing effort against Long Beach State in the 2017-18 season.
Atwell’s absence allowed an unexpected player to shine. Freshman forward Kasey Neubert asserted herself as a force to be reckoned with, erupting for a career high 22 points. The Elizabeth, Colo. native was one of the game’s leading scorers (tied), headlining a trio of ‘Bows who crossed the double-digit scoring mark. Sophomore forward Myrrah Joseph, who made her first career start in Atwell’s place, finished with 15 points, while senior guard Julissa Tago finished with 10. Senior Courtney Middap, who was asked to lead the offense alongside Tago, fell just short of a double-double, knocking down 9 points while setting the pace for the ‘Bows with a game-best 10 assists. Freshman Makayla Edwards and senior Savannah Reier joined Neubert with 8 and 7 points off the bench respectively, bringing the reserve unit’s point total to a whopping 37 points.
After drawing first blood with the opening triple, the Wahine lost any semblance of coordinated play. With 3 turnovers committed in the opening three minutes, Hawai‘i could do nothing but watch as the Royals rattled off 8 unanswered points. Tago finally broke the cold spell with a triple that cut the deficit down to two, but Hope International immediately responded with a layup of their own.
The Wahine eventually fought back to tie the game with back-to-back layups off the bench from freshmen Mikayla Edwards and Kasey Neubert. A nice display of passing at 1:13 put the Wahine in the paint, with Joseph converting the high-percentage shot to finally reclaim the lead for the ‘Bows 12-10. Junior Jadynn Alexander knocked down two free throws, capping off the 8-0 UH run to end the quarter.
Hawai‘i continued to push the advantage, knocking down the first four buckets of the second quarter to extend their lead to 22-10. A pair of Hope International free throws couldn’t stop the run, as the Wahine soon pushed their lead to 17. The Royals would go on to stem the tide, keeping Hawai‘i at bay. Hope International scored the final four points of the half with two free throws and a jumper, but the Wahine took the 12-point lead into the break with their 24-point quarter.
Quarter three proved to be more of the same for Hawai‘i, as the Wahine continue to build their lead. Any traces of the first quarter struggles had by now dissipated. Led by Joseph and Neubert, the ‘Bows ran their ran out to a 21-point advantage, with center Lauren Rewers’ And-1 conversion as the cherry on top. Tago then joined in on the scoring spree, knocking down five consecutive points for the Wahine. Two Rewers layups pushed the lead to 26, but a trio of Royal buckets cut it down to 21 heading into the final quarter.
Joseph continued her strong run to start the fourth, knocking in the first 5 points of the period. As the UH lead continued to grow, the Kasey Neubert show began. Neubert scored 12 of her 22 points in the fourth, shooting 4-4 to bring her game total to a perfect 8-8. With her last two layups of the night, Neubert pushed the Hawai‘i lead to 37, and made it three straight 20-point quarters for the ‘Bows. Meanwhile, the Royals were held to just 7 points in the final quarter.
The Wahine have now won two games in a row, and will prepare to head back out on the road after a quick stop at home. Hawai‘i will travel to Moscow, Idaho to take on the Idaho Vandals at Kibbie Dome on Dec. 21 at noon HST.