Hawai’i picks up first home victory against UC San Diego, continue sizzling conference start

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED JAN 20, 2024

HONOLULU — Another night, another dominant defensive showing. 

The Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine (9-7, 6-1 Big West) continued to tear through the Big West schedule Saturday night, defeating UC San Diego (7-11, 3-4 Big West) inside SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center, 64-52, behind a strong beginning and end to the contest. 

UH guard Lily Wahinekapu got the action going with a running layup in the lane for the game’s first points as Hawai’i took the lead from the jump and never relinquished it. The Rainbow Wahine would sprint out to a 14-5 lead through the opening 10 minutes behind stellar defense, holding UCSD to 2-of-10 shooting from the floor and forcing seven turnovers to grab the nine-point advantage. 

The good vibes and play continued into the start of the second frame for the Rainbow Wahine with a quick 5-0 run to force a Tritons’ timeout with 7:12 left in the first half with UH leading, 19-5. Following the stoppage, the visitors began to see better success on the offensive end by cutting down on the turnovers — committing just two giveaways in the frame as UCSD kept within 12 at the halftime break. 

Hawai’i came out of the locker rooms slowly to start the third quarter as UC San Diego brought the score within five before three minutes had run off the game clock, forcing a UH timeout. 

The Rainbow Wahine stabilized momentarily, cracking off an 8-0 run over 84 seconds to put the lead back above 10 before UCSD tightened things up on the defensive end. The programs would trade buckets over the final four and a half minutes of the quarter as Hawai’i entered the fourth with a nine-point lead. 

The Tritons’ comeback effort was aided by a tighter whistle from officials as the visitors used an aggressive offensive attack to quickly force five fouls on UH and enter the bonus with 5:56 left in regulation. With the help of solid free throw shooting, UCSD cut Hawai’i’s lead down to just three with 4:30 remaining after a pair of makes from the charity stripe by guard Sumayah Sugapong. 

That’s when the battle-tested ‘Bows would come through again. 

Wahinekapu and fellow guard Daejah Phillips scored ten consecutive points over the next three minutes of game action to put the contest away to pick up the Rainbow Wahine’s first home victory against UC San Diego. UH is now 2-3 all-time against the Tritons since the programs began competing against one another two years ago.  

UCSD’s Sugapong and Damilola Sule each contributed 15 points in the loss for the Tritons, who fell to 3-4 in conference play — seeing the teeth of the Big West gauntlet early. 

Wahinekapu led all scorers with 16 points, adding five rebounds and three assists for good measure as the Rainbow Wahine continue the best start to conference play under coach Laura Beeman. Phillips enjoyed herself another nice, stat sheet-stuffing night off the bench with 15 points on 50% shooting (4-of-8 FG) to go along with three boards, a pair of assists and a couple steals for good measure.  

Hawai’i now packs up for a critical road trip against some of the Big West’s best, first visiting UC Santa Barbara for a re-match of the 2023 Big West Tournament title game in a matchup between #1 and #2 in the conference’s standings before taking on a Cal Poly squad that sits just a game and a half back of the Rainbow Wahine’s current place on the hilltop.