Cal ends Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine season in WBIT opener, 65-60

Cal ends Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine season in WBIT opener, 65-60

Lily Wahinekapu handles the rock for Hawai’i in a home game. The junior lead guard scored a team-high 15 points in the season-ending loss to Cal in the WBIT. | Photo Credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

Cal ends Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine season in WBIT opener, 65-60

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED MAR 21, 2024

All good things must come to an end. 

The Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine (20-11) saw their 2023-24 season come to a close Thursday evening in Berkeley, California, falling to the 2nd-seeded Cal Golden Bears (19-14) in the opening round of the inaugural Women’s Basketball Invitation Tournament, 65-60. 

“I couldn’t be more proud of my team,” Hawai’i head coach Laura Beeman said to open her postgame press conference. “I thought we played very well today except for a few minutes in the 2nd quarter [when we scored four points].” 

For the second straight game, Hawai’i fell victim to an opponent making double-digit 3-pointers as Cal knocked down 11 triples, including seven after halftime, to help hold off a spirited Rainbow Wahine team that had multiple members feeling sick entering Day 17 of being on the road. 

After stumbling in the Big West Championships semifinals less than a week prior, Hawai’i was determined to put the disappointing end to conference to rest as MeiLani McBee got the Rainbow Wahine on the board on their opening possession after Cal’s Ugonne Onyiah started the scoring, tying the game at two just a minute in. 

UH took the team’s first lead of the day at the 7:17 mark as Olivia Davies drained a pair of free throws to put the Rainbow Wahine ahead, 6-4. The Golden Bears and ‘Bows traded baskets before seeing Cal jump back in front by three with 4:05 left in the opening quarter after Kemery Martin rattled off five straight points for the #2 seed to make it 11-8.  

The Rainbow Wahine returned fire with a 10-2 run over the final four minutes of the 1st quarter behind Brooklyn Rewers’ first two baskets of the game and the first long-distance make coming courtesy of Olivia Davies as UH entered the 2nd quarter up, 18-13. 

Cal grabbed control of the lead once again by drilling three 3-pointers to open the 2nd quarter, two coming from Leilani McIntosh, as Laura Beeman quickly called timeout after seeing her team fall down by four just two minutes into the frame. The timeout helped slow the Bears’ momentum as Hawai’i held the #2 seed scoreless over the next four minutes. 

The unfortunate part for UH was that their scoring drought continued through that stretch, finally scoring their first points of the quarter on an Imani Perez layup with 4:18 remaining in the opening half to bring the Rainbow Wahine back within a possession, 22-20. After Cal’s Onyiah split a pair of free throws, Lily Wahinekapu dropped a runner through just before the clock expired to make it a one-point game heading into the break. 

Hawai’i jumped back in front following halftime, drilling back-to-back tries from behind the arc to take a five-point lead just 90 seconds into the 3rd quarter. Cal sharpshooter Ioanna Krimili tied it at 29 with her first bucket of the night just about halfway through the period as part of the beginning stretches of an 11-1 run for the Bears. 

Wahinekapu worked her way to the cup for an and-one to snap the field goal drought for the Rainbow Wahine but missed the free throw after to make it 34-31. Another murky shooting stretch for UH allowed Cal to push the lead to a game-high 10 points before McBee drained a much-needed 3-pointer with 44 seconds left in the third to make the deficit seven, 41-34. Bears’ graduate transfer forward Ila Lane worked herself deep into the post to get fouled, knocking down a pair of free throws to give Cal a nine-point advantage heading into the final 10 minutes. 

Just as they had since the first practice of the season, Hawai’i fought back. 

Finally, Daejah Phillips got loose to begin the 4th quarter, sprinting into the frame with a layup and three consecutive makes from the charity stripe before Kelsie Imai spun home a tough layup to pull Hawai’i within a basket, 43-41, just 76 seconds into the action. 

Cal settled back with a couple of makes of their own from the foul line before Krimili worked into the midrange for a short jumper to push the lead back to six, but again the Rainbow Wahine responded as McBee drained another 3-pointer. 

Krimili and Bears’ freshman LuLu Laditan-Twidale continued to help keep UH at arms’ length with timely baskets despite the increasingly heavy offensive pressure that Wahinekapu and Phillips would put on as Laditan-Twidale drilled a triple with just under three minutes to play to give the Golden Bears an eight-point lead. 

Still, Hawai’i would not go away as Imani Perez answered back with a 3-pointer of her own before Wahinekapu came up with a steal and two makes at the free throw line to make it a one-possession game once again with 91 seconds to play.  

After fabulous freshman LuLu Laditan-Twidale calmly hit on two of three free throw attempts to push the Bears’ advantage back to five, it was again Perez swiftly swishing through a 3-pointer from the left wing to bring Hawai’i within two with 45 seconds left – well within striking distance for the program’s first postseason tournament win since 2001. 

An upset ultimately would not be in the cards for Laura Beeman’s squad as Kemery Martin stuck the dagger in the hearts of Rainbow Wahine fans with a tough right-wing three just before the end of the shot clock to make it 65-60 with just 18 ticks left. 

Hawai’i would get a quick (and quality) look for Perez with 11 seconds left that was just off the mark and the three subsequent putbacks rolled off the rim to see the end of the Rainbow Wahine season in Haas Pavillion, 65-60. 

“When you’re on the road and playing a team that’s supposed to beat you, you’ve got to beat teams, you can’t keep it close because you don’t know which way the whistle will go. I felt like we fought through a lot of great stuff today, we had a lot of people step up and I think we gave Cal a really good punch,” Beeman reflected of her team’s effort. 

Cal was led by Laditan-Twidale’s game-high 20 points – 12 coming in the 4th quarter – as the freshman missed just one shot all night with a 6-of-7 performance from the floor and 4-of-5 from 3-point range. While she was the only Golden Bear to finish in double figures, five other players finished with six or more points for Cal as the #2 seed advances to the 2nd round of the WBIT to take on #3 St. Joseph’s. 

Lily Wahinekapu bounced back in a big way after a tough shooting performance in the Big West Championships semifinals to lead Hawai’i with 15 points while shooting 60% from the floor. Forward Imani Perez also had a nice game for the Rainbow Wahine, adding 11 points and five rebounds with a team-best three 3-pointers in the loss. 

Daejah Phillips, who was still less than 100% after suffering an ankle injury in the Big West Championships semifinals and was feeling under the weather heading into the game, chipped in 10 points as the junior gave everything she had to try and deliver UH’s first postseason win under Laura Beeman. 

“I think the ankle was far less of an issue for her, Daejah has been sick all week and we didn’t even think she was going to play today. For her to be running a temperature and not be feeling well and get out of bed and come in this game just shows the fact that she loves her teammates,” Hawai’i’s 12th-year head coach said of the Big West 6th Player of the Year. “She wants to win. The ankle was an issue obviously, but she was going to play through that as well … we aren’t where we are without anybody on this team. Daejah’s a huge piece of that but so is everybody else, one through 15.” 

Hawai’i graduates two key rotation players in guards Ashley Thoms and Olivia Davies, both of whom started multiple games this season for the Rainbow Wahine, but expect to return the bulk of the roster for another run at a Big West Championship and spot in the NCAA Tournament in 2025. 

“I think we know what we need to work on individually and collectively,” Wahinekapu said heading into the offseason. “We’re trying to do big things next season.” 

“In moments like this – [it’s important] to not let our heads roll down and stay in our sadness, we’ve got to grow from it, learn from it, make those adjustments in the postseason and come back harder,” McBee added on. “That’s what we’re going to do next year, we are going to come back harder.” 

Beeman collects 200th UH win as Rainbow Wahine beat Cal State Bakersfield

Beeman collects 200th UH win as Rainbow Wahine beat Cal State Bakersfield

UH Rainbow Wahine HC Laura Beeman looks on during “Beeman’s Big Bash” on Feb. 17. The 12th-year head coach picked up her 200th win at UH in Hawai’i’s regular-season finale at CSU Bakersfield on March 9. | Photo Credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

Beeman collects 200th UH win as Rainbow Wahine beat Cal State Bakersfield

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED MAR 9, 2024

BAKERSFIELD, CA – Two bills for Laura Beeman. 

The 12th-year head coach secured her 200th win as the head coach of the Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine basketball program Saturday afternoon, becoming the second head coach in program history to hit the milestone (Vincent Goo, 334 wins) as UH clinched their third Big West regular season crown under Beeman and fifth overall. While the Rainbow Wahine clinched a share of the regular season title on Thursday with a win over CSUN, Saturday’s victory delivered lone possession of the top of the conference as the regular season ends. 

“The locker room was amazing, these kids are truly amazing,” the longtime head coach said after the game. “To win a conference championship outright, the way these kids did it, I could not be more proud and this staff could not be more proud. These guys get it done and we’re really excited to end our regular season this way.” 

Hawai’i drilled a season-high 17 3-pointers, one short of the UH WBB program record for a single game, as the Rainbow Wahine walloped CSU Bakersfield on the road in the regular-season finale, 85-48. The 85 points for UH mark a season-high and the second time this year they have eclipsed the 80-point threshold. 

Though they rested senior guard Olivia Davies, the Rainbow Wahine enjoyed the return of sophomore Imani Perez after the 6-foot-4 forward missed the previous three games after suffering a lower-leg injury late against Long Beach State on February 24. It was the first time all season that Hawai’i had all three of the Jacque David, Brooklyn Rewers and Perez active for the same game.  

“It was just amazing to see the chemistry and see that they’re all feeling good and getting back, comfortable playing on the court and playing together,” Hawai’i assistant coach Khalilah Mitchell, who Beeman says oversees a majority of rotations and substitutions, said of the frontcourt trio finally getting to play in the same game together. “[It’s been good for us] just seeing what lineups work with each other to see what we have to do as we go through the tournament, to see who is going to be the best lineups for who our opponents are.” 

Hawai’i blitzed Bakersfield early, making the team’s first nine shots – the first being Perez knocking down a free-throw line jumper – on the way to a 25-14 lead after 10 minutes of action. Daejah Phillips and the Rainbow Wahine defense keyed the run as the junior guard scored nine points in the opening frame and UH held the Roadrunners to just 23.5% shooting from the field. 

The Roadrunners saw UH continue to grow the lead, pushing it all the way to 19 after MeiLani McBee cashed in on her first triple of the afternoon before CSUB’s offense finally awoke. An 11-2 run to close the first half for Cal State Bakersfield helped bring the margin back to 10 at the break, 37-27.  

Perez opened the 2nd half with a 3-pointer of her own, foreshadowing the upcoming onslaught of triples the Rainbow Wahine would rain down in the third quarter. UH’s Ashley Thoms rang in from deep right before Phillips did the same on the next possession to give a 14-point lead to Hawai’i just over three minutes out of the break. 

Then, it was suddenly Lily Wahinekapu’s world. 

The junior standout scored 11 of the next 13 points for Hawai’i as the Rainbow Wahine lead pushed over the 20-point mark with just under two minutes left in the 3rd quarter. Wahinekapu knocked down three 3-pointers in the frame to make it a 22-point lead before McBee showed off the shooters’ touch on back-to-back 3-pointers to end the period up by 28. 

Hawai’i refused to take the foot off the gas pedal once the final frame began as freshman forward Vivienne Berrett pushed the Rainbow Wahine lead to 30 with her first bucket of the day and fellow freshie Jade Peacock drilled another three for the first two 4th quarter possessions for UH. 

“This is what we wanted to do,” Beeman said postgame about her team’s impressive performance. “We talked about it as a staff that we wanted to have a dominating last game going into [the Big West Tournament]. We did not want there to be any doubt that we are the number one team in this conference from start to finish.” 

Wahinekapu put home two more jumpers to push her point total to 22, a season-high for the junior, as Hawai’i watched the lead grow to nearly 40 over the final minutes before a few CSU Bakersfield baskets right before the end allowed the Roadrunners to escape without becoming the lowest point total allowed for UH this season with 48 points. 

David would close the fun on the day for the Rainbow Wahine with one last long-range make from the left corner for UH’s 17th 3-pointer of the game, setting a new season-high and falling just one make short of the program record 18 3-pointers in a single game as Hawai’i won their 17th conference game of the year and 20th overall, 85-48. 

“I think that the seeding committee definitely takes a look at how you’re playing at the end [of the regular season],” Beeman said when asked about the significance of reaching the 20-win threshold. “We wanted to get to that 20th win for the seeding, for the championship, for the state of Hawai’i, for these kids… that’s what we’re pushing for, for sure.”  

Phillips added 12 points in the win for the Rainbow Wahine, who saw 10 different players score throughout the game and eight different players make a 3-pointer. The “team” aspect of UH was on display all day, tallying 20 assists on 31 made field goals. 

Hawai’i enters the Big West Tournament with a double-bye, riding a seven-game winning streak as they await in the tournament semifinals. UH will play the first of the two semifinal games on March 15 with tip-off scheduled for 9 a.m. HT, looking to return to the Big West Tournament championship game for the third straight season and defend their back-to-back conference tournament crowns. 

Short-handed Hawai’i fights by CSU Fullerton despite Lewis’ season-high

Short-handed Hawai’i fights by CSU Fullerton despite Lewis’ season-high

Hawai’i guard Daejah Phillips pulls up for a jumper during the second half of the Rainbow Wahine’s 66-61 win over CSU Fullerton. | Photo Credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

Short-handed Hawai’i fights by CSU Fullerton despite Lewis’ season-high

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED FEB 1, 2024

HONOLULU — Just another night in the Stan. 

Down two starters that stand over 6-foot-4, it took some time for UH to figure out the size and strength of Ashlee Lewis and Cal State Fullerton on Thursday night.  

For Hawai’i, figuring out challenges of changing personnel within the ebbs and flows of the season is nothing new, so they just turned to the backcourt for help. 

The Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine (11-8, 8-2 Big West) used the hot-handed backcourt of Lily Wahinekapu and Daejah Phillips to eek out a home victory over the CSU Fullerton Titans (7-13, 3-7 Big West), 66-61. The backcourt duo combined for 36 of the Rainbow Wahine’s 66 total points, 30 of which came after the halftime break, as Laura Beeman’s squad remained tied atop the Big West with UC Irvine, posting their eighth win in ten conference games. 

Forward Jacque David, starting in place for usual standout Imani Perez for the first time this season and first time since suffering a season-ending injury during the 2022-23 season, got the scoring started for both sides with a left-wing three-pointer for her first long-range make in just five games of action this season. 

CSU Fullerton responded with an 11 straight points as the home squad struggled to find the touch on the jump shot, going up by eight just over halfway through the opening quarter. Following the first media break of the night, the Rainbow Wahine ripped off an 8-2 run of their own to cut the Titans’ lead to two before CSUF’s Hope Hassmann beat the first quarter buzzer with a left-wing three to go into the second up, 16-11.

Hawai’i tied the game with just under six minutes left in the first half as Meilani McBee drained her first three of the night, making it 18-all before Fujika Nimmo answered on the following possession to put the visitors back in front by a trifecta. After a couple of traded baskets, UH’s Jade Peacock got a decent look just before the halftime horn that went off the mark as the ‘Bows entered halftime trailing, 25-22. 

The Rainbow Wahine started the second half the same as the first as David knocked home her second three-pointer of the night to knot things momentarily at 25, stacking that on top of a forced shot-clock violation on the other end before CSUF rattled off six points in a row to reclaim the lead. Behind former Titan and newly-minted 1,000-point collegiate scorer Lily Wahinekapu, UH tied the game once again at 33 about midway through the quarter. 

Hawai’i finally re-took the lead with just over a minute left in the third as Daejah Phillips took over, driving by Ashlee Lewis for a right-handed layup before drilling a right-corner three to push the Rainbow Wahine ahead, 43-42. CSUF’s Eva Levingston knocked down a pair of free throws on the other end to push the away squad ahead but again, Phillips would answer with two points of her own – giving Hawai’i a one-point lead heading into the final quarter of play. 

Wahinekapu began the final 10 minutes with another bucket, extending the UH advantage to three before Levingston knotted it back up at 47. The forward for the Titans fouled out just a few possessions later as the “Daejah Show” continued with a foray to the cup, plus the foul, to make it 51-51 with just under six minutes remaining. Kelsie Imai pushed Hawai’i back out in front with a pair of makes from the charity stripe and Phillips rattled off back-to-back buckets to make it a six-point lead for the Rainbow Wahine with 3:18 left to play.  

The Titans wouldn’t concede the contest to Hawai’i quite yet, playing the foul game to extend the clock as Lewis put up a pair of baskets while UH missed four consecutive free throws to make the Stan Sheriff Center crowd on hand sweat a bit before Phillips, Imai and Wahinekapu closed things out from the line to keep the Rainbow Wahine perfect at home since conference play began, taking down CSU Fullerton, 66-61. 

CSU Fullerton’s Ashlee Lewis posted a season-best 25 points to go along with 13 rebounds, leading both teams in those categories. Hope Hassman chipped in 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting in the loss for the Titans. 

Hawai’i’s Phillips also posted a season-high in points with 22 in just 26 minutes, showing potential as a small-ball forward after Beeman experimented with Phillips and McBee staffing the four and five positions down Brooklyn Rewers and Imani Perez. MeiLani McBee closed the night with 11 points, going just 1-of-7 from distance but providing excellent post defense without fouling late to help lead the Rainbow Wahine to the win. 

The victory sets up an exciting Saturday night clash of the Big West’s best as Hawai’i welcomes UC Irvine into Mānoa for a first-place bout. Both teams are currently tied atop the conference standings with identical 8-2 records in Big West play, though the Anteaters did not play Thursday night after Cal Poly was forced to forfeit the contest and enter Saturday in the islands with just one game that needed to prep for this week. 

“I think knowing that we missed an opportunity to defend home court last year [versus UC Irvine] … knowing what they had to prepare for this week? It’s going to be personal,” McBee said ahead of Saturday’s matchup. 

Hawai’i marches past CSUN for third straight win to begin Big West play

Hawai’i marches past CSUN for third straight win to begin Big West play

Hawai’i marches past CSUN for third straight win to begin Big West play

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED JAN 6, 2023

HONOLULU — The Hawai’i women’s basketball team (6-6, 3-0 Big West) continued a dominant start to conference play on Saturday night, dispatching CSU Northridge (2-11, 0-3 Big West), 67-38, for the program’s sixth consecutive win over the Matadors behind another night of elite defense and the spark plug play of Daejah Phillips and Meilani McBee. 

The win moves UH to 3-0 to begin conference play, the first time the Rainbow Wahine have won the first three games of conference play since the 2001-02 season as a part of the WAC (Western Athletic Conference). Hawai’i also returns to a record of .500 or better for the first time since November 17 after defeating San Francisco at home, 65-51. 

The evening got off to a bit of a slow start with the teams trading shot clock violations on each’s opening possession before CSUN’s Talo Li-Uperesa got scoring started with an acrobatic layup through traffic to give the Matadors their first (and only) lead of the game. UH’s Brooklyn Rewers tied it at two at the 7:20 mark with a pair of makes from the free throw line and followed it up with a mid-range jumper from the top of the key and spinning finish down low to give the Rainbow Wahine a 6-2 lead.  

Imani Perez scored the first non-Rewers UH points on a give-and-go and Lily Wahinekapu made it a 10-4 advantage for Hawai’i with her first points on a nice show-and-go to free space on the way to the rim. CSUN’s Amiyah Ferguson drilled the game’s first triple on the following possession to bring the visitors back within three and the Matadors tied it at 11 after Arina Nikishina snagged an offensive rebound and put it back up and in with two minutes left in the opening quarter.  

Ashley Thoms gave the lead right back to Hawai’i after a 1-for-2 trip to the free throw line with 53 seconds left in the quarter and UH extended it to three just before the second quarter with another Wahinekapu layup, 14-11. 

Imani Perez got the action going again with a finish from the left block to begin the second and Rewers continued her sweet-shooting first half by drilling a straight-away three to give UH a 20-15 lead early in the period.  

CSUN would respond with a quick 5-0 run as forward Laney Amundsen tied it at 20 with a strong post seal and finish, but Kelsie Imai’s first points of the night gave the lead back to the ‘Bows after the guard raced down the floor in transition for a layup and forced a Matadors’ timeout. 

That Imai layup was only the start of another avalanche by the ‘Bows. 

Hawai’i’s Daejah Phillips drained a right-corner three after the timeout to reclaim the five-point lead for UH and extended the lead to 27-20 with a pair of free throws after CSUN’s Kayanna Spriggs was called for intentional foul for hitting Phillips in the face with her elbow. Wahinekapu got a layup to go on the give-and-go to extend the lead to nine for the Rainbow Wahine with just over a minute left in the half and Phillips cashed in from the right corner again to make it 32-20 in favor of the defending Big West champions at halftime. 

The hot shooting for Phillips continued through the break as she drilled her first shot after checking back in, another triple from the left corner this time to give UH a 15-point lead, 37-22. Meilani McBee got in on the fun with a left wing three to push it to 18 by the third quarter’s media timeout with just over four minutes left. 

After the break in action, Wahinekapu knocked down a triple of her own, followed by another McBee three that gave the ‘Bows a 27-point lead heading into the fourth. 

In all? A 29-2 run from the 4:10 mark of the second quarter and all the way through to the start of the fourth for UH. 

Clamps, camaraderie and cashing in from long range to take the game over — also known as the “Rainbow Wahine” way. 

The Matadors opened the final ten minutes with five quick points before UH freshman Jade Peacock spun home a layup to push the ‘Bows above the 50-point threshold on the night. Imai would keep the scoring going in the interim to move into double-digits on the night with a season-high 11 points. Freshman big Vivienne Berrett finally got a look to go with just under a minute left to get on the scoresheet and junior and team-favorite Hallie Birdsong swished home a dribble-pull up for her first career points for her home school to cap a dominant 67-38 win for the ‘Bows that left everyone smiling. 

Phillips led the way for Hawai’i with 12 points on a perfect 3-of-3 shooting from three-point range and finished as a +27 in her 26 minutes on the floor. McBee knocked home three three-pointers of her own, all coming in the third quarter as Hawai’i pulled away from CSU Northridge. Brooklyn Rewers added an important nine points and six rebounds, helping keep the ‘Bows afloat in the first quarter while the offense struggled. Hawai’i posted a season-high with 43 rebounds, winning the battle on the glass over the Matadors, 43-32. 

Saturday marked the second straight game that UH posted a season-low in points allowed and the 38 points given up to CSUN is the lowest to an opponent for the Rainbow Wahine since their 47-35 win over UC Santa Barbara on January 26, 2019. It also marked the third consecutive game holding an opponent under 50 points for Hawai’i.  

The Rainbow Wahine will now put their perfect conference record on the line for an important road trip, taking on UC Irvine on January 11 and facing off with UC Riverside on January 13 before returning home on January 18.  

Hawaii starts conference play, ends 2023 with 10-point win at Cal State Fullerton

Hawaii starts conference play, ends 2023 with 10-point win at Cal State Fullerton

Hawaii starts conference play, ends 2023 with 10-point win at Cal State Fullerton

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED DEC 30, 2023

Daejah who, vu, don’t be blue.

For the third consecutive season, Hawai’i women’s basketball has won their conference-opener. For the ninth straight time, Hawai’i women’s basketball has defeated Cal State Fullerton on the hardwood.

Jokes aside, the Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine (4-6, 1-0 Big West) closed out the 2023 calendar year in style, picking up a road conference win by taking down Cal State Fullerton (5-7, 1-1 Big West) on the mainland Saturday afternoon, 59-49. The victory also was the first road win of the year for the Rainbow Wahine, who had previously fallen at #2 UCLA, #9 Stanford and a Santa Clara squad that sits at 12-3 heading into 2024 in three previous road contests. 

More impressive, UH did so without the services of one their leading scorers in guard Daejah Phillips, who did not suit up for the conference-opener for the Rainbow Wahine. Phillips could be seen on the end of the bench, engaged in the game and cheering on teammates despite missing her first game of the year. 

It looked like Hawai’i would struggle without the shot-making prowess of the junior early on as CSU Fullerton held the ‘Bows scoreless for the game’s first four minutes before UH’s Kelsie Imai got a layup to go to get the visitors on the board to provide a spark. 

The spark quickly turned into flames as MeiLani McBee and Ashley Thoms drained back-to-back triples to push Hawai’i in front, 8-4, with 4:11 remaining in the opening frame. The Rainbow Wahine flexed the defensive tenacity that has become a calling card in the past two Big West-winning seasons by allowing just one basket in the final six minutes of the first quarter and extending the lead to 13-6 after 10 minutes of action — forcing seven Titans’ turnovers in the process. 

The complimentary basketball on both sides of the court for Hawai’i trickled into the second quarter as Lily Wahinekapu’s steal and score opened action in the period and set the tone for the Rainbow Wahine to grow the advantage to a game-high 14 points ahead of halftime after another steal and score by Wahinekapu with seven seconds left in the first half. 

Hawai’i’s Imai led the charge through 20 minutes for the Rainbow Wahine, filling up the box sheet with eight points, four steals and three assists off the bench to help fill the void felt by the loss of usual “Energizer-Bunny” in Phillips. Thoms came off the pine for UH as well and added a game-best nine points on a perfect 3-of-3 shooting from distance in the first half. 

Cal State Fullerton used a pair of Fujika Nimmo makes from range to open the second half quickly, going on a 7-0 run in just two minutes of game action to cut the Hawai’i lead in half and force a timeout. The momentum shift continued through the break in the action with another Nimmo triple to cut it to four before UH’s Brooklyn Rewers got a look inside to go for the ‘Bows first points since the break. 

The Titans brought it within two before Thoms drilled her career-best fourth three-pointer of the contest to give the Rainbow Wahine breathing room with a five-point lead with 5:11 left in the quarter. After Nimmo cut it to a one-possession game again, it would be McBee with the “Midas Touch” from distance putting Hawai’i up by six with 3:28 left in the third quarter, 41-35. The teams traded late-shot clock makes to close out the quarter, but it was the visiting Rainbow Wahine leading by five with 10 minutes left in regulation. 

When it turned to winning time, the battle-tested ‘Bows (both from past seasons and the challenging non-conference schedule) turned up the defensive heat again, holding CSU Fullerton without a point for the first six minutes and 52 seconds of the fourth while extending the lead into double-digits for the first time since the opening moments of the second half. CSU-Fullerton’s Ashlee Lewis ended the scoring drought for the Titans, but it was too little, too late for the hosts, who dropped to 1-1 in conference play. 

Hawai’i, who has seen rebounding struggles throughout the first nine games, won the battle on the glass versus CSU Fullerton, 42-33, while flexing an impressive bench unit that produced 25 of 59 points for UH.

CSU-Fullerton was led by Nimmo’s game-high 17 points on 5-of-10 shooting from long range, though the guard was just 6-for-17 overall from the floor. The Titans committed 15 turnovers on the afternoon, though just five came after halftime. 

Hawai’i’s Ashley Thoms had a season-high 12 points on the career-best four three-pointers off the bench in the win. Junior guard Kelsie Imai finished with nine points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals and was a +13 in her 23 minutes off the bench, helping the Rainbow Wahine finish 2023 on the right foot and head into 2024 flying high (and back to the islands) with a win.