‘Bows Survive Double-Overtime Scare from Fullerton, Set Up Semifinals Showdown with Long Beach State 


HENDERSON, N.V. — Third-seeded Hawai’i women’s basketball escaped the quarterfinal round of the 2023 Big West tournament, beating six-seed Cal State Fullerton, 82-75 in double-overtime.

It was the third time this season that the Rainbow Wahine took down the Titans, though it took everything and the kitchen sink to get by Fullerton this time. 

Regulation of Runs

After a trio of wild finishes in the other quarterfinals of the day, the Titans and Rainbow Wahine matchup was no different. The two teams traded blows back and forth throughout the first 40 minutes of play, each taking turns at the lead. 

Hawai’i forward Kallin Spiller started out hot, scoring the ‘Bows first seven points as they sparred with the Titans in the early minutes. Unfortunately for the Rainbow Wahine, the rest of the offense struggled a bit to get going. 

“We just came out flat,” Hawai’i head coach Laura Beeman said at halftime.

Behind six points from each Una Jovanovic and Ashlee Lewis, Cal State Fullerton ended the opening frame with a four-point advantage, 17-13.

Back-to-back 3-pointers by the Titans to open the second quarter saw the six-seed have the lead grow to 10, but Hawai’i’s Meilani McBee knocked down a pair of triples on back-to-back possessions for the ‘Bows to cut the lead back to 4.

Early on, every Rainbow Wahine run was answered with timely baskets from the Titans. As the first half clock ran down, it was the ‘Bows turn to take over the game with a run and timely defensive stops. Hawai’i ended the half on a 12-2 run, heading into the locker rooms with a 33-30 lead.

The ‘Bows came out of the locker room looking to continue their late 1st half success, pushing the lead up to seven before the Titans came storming back once again to take the lead late in the third quarter. 

Behind the lively and passionate play of forward Ashlee Lewis, Fullerton was ready to make the game a dog fight until the very end. Fighting for loose ball after loose ball, Lewis also chipped in a few buckets and nice defensive plays to help the Titans grab a 42-41 lead.

A Lily Wahinekapu 3-pointer gave Hawai’i a four-point lead again late in the third, but a Fujika Nimmo layup cut the Rainbow Wahine lead to just two as the teams headed into the fourth quarter.

The teams traded baskets back and forth throughout the fourth quarter to go between a one-possession game to tied until an Imani Perez layup with just under 90 seconds to play in regulation gave the ‘Bows a four-point lead once again.

A late turnover by Hawai’i led to a foul, allowing Cal State Fullerton to tie the game at the free throw line with 47 seconds left. Daejah Phillips looked like the hero for the ‘Bows, cashing in on the go-ahead free throws with 36 seconds to go, but the Titans drew a foul at the other end to knot it at 59-all.

McBee got a look at the regulation buzzer for Hawai’i but left it short as the ‘Bows got into the offense a little later than they might have liked. 

Extra Time Excitement

After 40 minutes of battle, it would have been perfectly reasonable for either team to look a little tired as the game entered the first overtime period. The day had been long, starting with another double-overtime game in the upset win for nine-seeded CSU Bakersfield over top-seed UC Irvine.

As the ball was tossed in the air for the second time on Thursday night in the Hawai’i versus Cal State Fullerton quarterfinal matchup, a new viewer would have thought the game was just beginning.

Effort levels remained high, teams both fighting for extra opportunities on the offensive glass and working to create and control loose balls. A four-point lead for Hawai’i with under three minutes in the first overtime quickly dissipated and turned into a three-point lead for the Titans with 25 seconds left in the game. 

Following a Hawai’i timeout, the ‘Bows looked back to McBee for a big-time shot to give the Rainbow Wahine another chance to win in another overtime period. A hammer-action offensive set on the out of bounds saw Phillips get a hand-off and throw a beautiful pass along the baseline to a wide open McBee in the opposite corner for the game-tying 3-pointer.

The second overtime saw the ‘Bows take a five-point lead midway through the period, but free throws would help seal the deal for Hawai’i as the Rainbow Wahine sunk the Titans, 82-75.

Cal State Fullerton was led by Lewis, who had 22 points and 9 rebounds in the quarterfinal defeat. Jovanovic chipped in 16 points for the Titans, who close the season with a 14-16 overall record.

Hawai’i, the Big West Tournament’s defending champion, was led by Lily Wahinekapu’s 20 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. McBee, who missed the 3-pointer to win in regulation but hit the 3-pointer to keep the ‘Bows alive, finished the night with 14 points with three huge 3-pointers.

The Rainbow Wahine now advances to the Big West semifinals, where they will take on two-seed Long Beach State. The last time those two squads met was on February 18, when the Beach stole one in Honolulu, 48-47.

The semifinal matchup between the two will be Friday at 2:30 PM HST, broadcast on EPSN+.