Hawai’i continues strong start to conference play with blowout win over Bakersfield

Hawai’i continues strong start to conference play with blowout win over Bakersfield

Hawai’i continues strong start to conference play with blowout win over Bakersfield

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED JAN 4, 2024

HONOLULU — Home, sweet home. 

After a month away from the friendly confines of SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center, the Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine (5-6, 2-0 Big West) wasted little time sprinting away from the Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners (4-8, 1-2 Big West) on Thursday night, using strong long-range shooting early to jump out a lead they would never look back from to win, 67-43. 

Three of UH’s first four makes came from distance as redshirt junior guard Olivia Davies got the party started with a triple from the left wing before Meilani McBee mirrored Davies with a three-pointer of her own from the other side of the court to make it 6-0 in the blink of an eye. Roadrunners’ guard Shaunae Brown started the scoring for CSUB to make it 6-2 before UH forward Brooklyn Rewers knocked home a straight-away three-pointer in response. 

Hawai’i’s dominant first quarter continued behind the team’s depth, using birthday gal Vivienne Berrett’s back-to-back finishes down low to make it a 15-2 lead for the ‘Bows before Bakersfield’s Julia Riley knocked down a right-corner three to slow the momentum momentarily. 

Hawai’i fans did not need to wait long for a response from the Rainbow Wahine as Kelsie Imai pushed the tempo and tossed a beautiful pass in transition to Ashley Thoms for a wide-open triple from beyond the arc and freshman guard Jade Peacock got in on the fun with a three of her own, giving UH a 16-point lead after 10 minutes of play. 

After CSUB nearly matched its first quarter point total in the first few possessions of the second period and held the Rainbow Wahine without any points, Hawai’i’s defense locked right back in after McBee hit her second three of the night. UH extended the lead above 20 for the first time as Imai raced down the floor and spun a transition layup up and in to make it 32-11 with about three minutes left to play in the half and continued the strong play to enter the break with a 22-point lead in hand. 

“I think it’s nice when you come out in the first quarter and play the way we did,” Hawai’i head coach Laura Beeman said postgame of her team’s performance. “[CSU Bakersfield] is a good team, I think we just kind of took the wind out of them early, not allowing them double-digits in points for the first two quarters. Third and fourth? We just need to continue to grow our game and continue to stay consistent.” 

The visitors would start the third quarter much like the previous frame with quality defense, holding UH scoreless for over three and a half minutes after halftime as the Roadrunners brought it to 19 on a Brown triple – but that was the closest they would get. 

Imani Perez ended the ‘Bows scoring drought with a pair of free throw makes at the 6:25 mark and Lily Wahinekapu followed them up with a triple, starting a run to extend the lead to a game-high 28 points at time before the end of the quarter. The Roadrunners dropped in a couple of buckets before Perez beat the buzzer to give UH a 26-point lead heading into the final 10 minutes, 52-26. 

While CSUB would win the final 10 minutes, Wahinekapu and crew refused to let their foot off the gas as Hawai’i closed out its second Big West win in as many games to open the conference slate with a 24-point home win over the Roadrunners, 67-43. 

Hawai’i was led by Lily Wahinekapu’s season-best 15 points as the guard became the seventh different player to lead the Rainbow Wahine in scoring for a game this season, shooting 6-for-11 from the floor and drilling 3-of-6 three-point attempts. Daejah Phillips returned from a one-game absence for the ‘Bows to tie a career-high with 10 rebounds while chipping in seven points in the win. 

Berrett enjoyed herself a nice birthday outing, posting a career-best seven points in just nine minutes of action as she continues to develop into a nice depth piece for the Rainbow Wahine. 

Ten different UH players scored at least once in the win on Thursday. The Rainbow Wahine are back in action on Saturday, hosting CSUN with tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m. inside SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center. 

“We shot the ball pretty well, we shared a lot of minutes and we just have got to keep pushing along – we’ve got a good team coming in here Saturday,” Beeman closed her thoughts with. 

PHOTOS BY MICHAEL LASQUERO