With the season opener looming on the horizon, the University of Hawai’i women’s basketball team hosted their familiar neighbors, the Hawai’i Pacific Sharks, in an exhibition game at the Stan Sheriff Center on Tuesday night. The Rainbow Wahine shook off the offseason rust, holding HPU back 76-71 despite a strong effort from the sharks.
“Give a lot of credit to HPU,” head coach Laura Beeman said. “Its no wonder why they are in the top of their conference year after year. They outplayed us in terms of effort tonight. We have to find a sense of urgency on the defensive side of the ball.”
Senior guard Julissa Tago started her final campaign on the right foot, leading all scorers in the game with 23 points. Tago was one of four Wahine players to score in double-digits, alongside redshirt junior forward Amy Atwell, junior guard Alexander, and junior center Lauren Rewers. Meanwhile, true freshman Nae Nae Calhoun made her ‘Bows debut, getting the start at point guard. Calhoun displayed her explosiveness, racking up 9 points in the contest.
“Starting point guard as a freshman is a pretty tough assignment,” Beeman said of Calhoun. “I thought Nae did a really good job both defensively and offensively for us.”
“She doesn’t play like a freshman,” Tago added.
After junior center Lauren Rewers won the tip-off, senior guard Julissa Tago quickly opened the scoring with a 3-point jumper. The score was quickly matched a jumper by the Sharks. Redshirt junior forward Amy Atwell responded with a successful and-1 conversion as the Wahine doubled up on the Sharks 6-3. Hawai’i Pacific managed to bring the game into a tie twice throughout the first quarter, but were ultimately unable to overcome the ‘Bows, who led throughout the frame en route to a 17-12 lead. With a minute left in the quarter, freshman forward Olivia Davies went down with an injury, immediately grabbing her left knee. Davies eventually walked off the court under her own power, and headed straight to the locker room for further evaluation.
“Injuries are a part of the game unfortunately,” Beeman said. “(Ideally) you want to have a deep bench. Unfortunately, we were down two players, which affects the depth. We're at ten people right now. Injuries are a part of it. We’re knocking on wood and sending our prayers for (Olivia), hopefully she’ll be fine.”
The Wahine again opened the second quarter with a bucket, this time with a jumper from Calhoun. HPU knocked down a three-pointer and a layup to stay within reaching distance of the ‘Bows lead. The Wahine quickly took down the rally attempt, knocking down seven straight points. Meanwhile, Davies rejoined her teammates on the bench with her left knee heavily taped up. With the half winding down, Hawai’i Pacific heated up, knocking down three-point jumpers in three consecutive possessions to pull within two heading into the break.
The Sharks couldn’t carry their momentum into the third quarter, surrendering a 9-1 run to the Wahine to open the half. A 5-0 run by HPU late in the frame made it a two possession game, but Hawai’i once again slipped away. With mere seconds left on the clock, Sharks guard Starr Rivera knocked down a 30 foot jumper to cut the deficit to single digits heading into the final quarter.
The last second bucket didn’t immediately translate into momentum for the Sharks, as Hawai’i picked up the first six points of the quarter. HPU’s offense picked up the pace however, while the defense held the Wahine to a flurry of free throw attempts the rest of the way. However, three last-second field goals were not enough for Hawai’i Pacific as the comeback bid fell five points shy. The Sharks outscored the Wahine 24-20 in the final frame.
The Rainbow Wahine open the season against San Diego State at the Stan Sheriff Center on Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. HST.