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.