“Beeman’s Big Bash” smashing success as Hawai’i beats UCSB in front of record-setting crowd

“Beeman’s Big Bash” smashing success as Hawai’i beats UCSB in front of record-setting crowd

Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine celebrate during UH’s 68-64 win over UC Santa Barbara. Hawai’i set a new attendance record under HC Laura Beeman with 4,080 fans in attendance on Feb. 17, 2024. | Photo Credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

“Beeman’s Big Bash” smashing success as Hawai’i beats UCSB in front of record-setting crowd

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED FEB 17, 2024

HONOLULU – Laura Beeman said earlier in the week that she hadn’t allowed herself to think about the possibility of what a perfect week looked like leading up to a brand-new event that hoped to display the back-to-back Big West tournament champion Rainbow Wahine to the largest crowd in Beeman’s 12 seasons.  

How could she? Her team had a high-quality Cal Poly squad coming to the islands on Thursday and an arguably even-better team in UC Santa Barbara to close out the week to worry about before she could think about postgame Saturday. Nonetheless, she was honored that the school would put on an entire evening in her name and even more excited at the prospect of an “electric atmosphere” for the young women representing the University of Hawai’i. 

“Honestly, and I don’t know if you’re going to believe me or not, I haven’t thought about that trifecta [of beating Cal Poly, UCSB and setting the attendance record],” Beeman chuckled back on Tuesday. “If all of those things happen, ask me after that [UC Santa Barbara] game. I’m sure I’d be emotional about it.” 

Well, she was. 

The Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine (15-9, 12-3 Big West) completed the perfect trifecta Beeman alluded to on that Tuesday, outlasting the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (16-9, 10-5 Big West) in front of a Beeman-era record of 4,080 fans that entered through the turnstiles Saturday night, 68-64. 

The goal had been set far in advance to try and break the attendance record for a single-game Rainbow Wahine contest under the longtime head coach of 3,491 fans in the building that came back on senior night for Hawai’i at the conclusion of the 2014-15 season, her third at the helm of UH. The overall program record was set back in February of 1998 when 6,192 fans joined together to cheer on the Rainbow Wahine. 

With the Beeman-era record of more than four thousand fans in the building for tip-off, Laura Beeman and the team knew they were in for a special night very early. 

“Coming out from the locker room … walking out and hearing the ovation that the players got, and the staff got, I think at that moment I was like ‘Oh, this might be for real because there’s a lot of people here tonight,’” The 12th-year Hawai’i head coach smiled in her postgame press conference.  

The packed Stan Sheriff Center crowd made an impact from the opening possession of the game as Hawai’i forced a shot-clock violation and followed it with Ashley Thoms finding Imani Perez for the game’s first points. UCSB responded with eight straight points as both Alexis Whitfield and Anya Choice got into the scorebook for the first time, watching some Hawai’i nerves on display as the Rainbow Wahine shots rimmed out. 

The entrance of Daejah Phillips quickly changed UH’s fortunes as the junior guard rattled off 11 consecutive points for the Rainbow Wahine to suddenly ignite the jam-packed crowd’s energy, pushing Hawai’i out in front by five with 2:43 left. Her final bucket of the 11-point flurry also pushed the junior over the 1,000 career-point mark as the Las Vegas native became the 24th player in program history to eclipse the milestone. 

“Daejah’s a winner,” Beeman simply stated about the star junior guard. “She doesn’t think about the moment, she is just in the moment and when you can play in the moment, you do extraordinary things. Daejah has a tendency to just be in the moment and do extraordinary things … In my entire career, she’s up at the top of kids that I’m proud of for their growth and just for how she loves her teammates, how she loves her staff and how she loves herself.” 

Despite the pressure of Phillips and the loud crowd, the battle-tested Gauchos turned up the defensive heat to hold hosting Hawai’i scoreless for the remainder of the first quarter to send the game into the second quarter tied at 13. 

Thoms put the Rainbow Wahine back in front by three with her first make of the night coming from behind the arc to start the second, but Whitfield had the answer a minute later to knot it up at 16. The Gauchos’ all-conference forward hit another triple three minutes later as UCSB went up by five ahead of the media timeout and forced a timeout from Hawai’i. 

The break helped the Wahine stop the bleeding, coming out of the stoppage with three of the next four buckets to make it a two-point game with three minutes left in the first half before the continued hot shooting from long range for the visiting Gauchos saw a pair of 3-pointers drop through to push the lead back to eight. 

Lily Wahinekapu, the team’s scoring leader this season, finally got on the board with a 3-pointer of her own with just over a minute before halftime that brought Hawai’i back within five and settled the nerves of everyone just a bit. 

“I think the crowd got her a little bit in the first half,” Beeman said of the ‘Iolani alum and starting point guard for the Rainbow Wahine. “For whatever reason, the lights weren’t as bright for her in the second half, and she was able to get to the basket. You know, hit a big three, [too].” 

Wahinekapu quickly took over to open the third quarter, rattling off five straight points to knot things at 32 before she found Olivia Davies on the right wing to put the Wahine out in front once again and force a timeout from UCSB’s head coach Bonnie Henrickson just 77 seconds into the second half. 

Hawai’i continued the break-neck pace out of the locker rooms as Thoms got in on the long-range fun herself with a triple from the left corner out of the timeout, pushing UH ahead by six, 38-32. UCSB’s Choice and Whitfield got a pair of layups to go to bring the Gauchos back within a possession with 6:48 left in the third and took the lead two minutes later as Choice got to the cup again to make it 41-40 in favor of the visitors. 

Whitfield drilled a three and got a tough turnaround to go to extend the Gauchos’ lead to five, 46-41, before an onslaught from the three-guard Hawai’i lineup of Phillips, Wahinekapu and McBee helped the Rainbow Wahine take a one-point advantage into the fourth, 48-47. 

Wahinekapu and Hawai’i continued rolling to open the final frame as the guard scored five points in a row after Jacque David got the Rainbow Wahine to the 50-point mark to open the quarter and take an eight-point lead. UCSB guard Mary McMorris got a layup to drop in for the Gauchos’ first points of the fourth, coming more than two minutes into the action. 

Again, Wahinekapu answered with five points in a row for UH, scoring 10 consecutive points for the Rainbow Wahine in total as the team maintained the eight-point advantage. After Phillips hit a pair of free throws, Thoms and Perez connected on a play identical to the start of the game to give Hawai’i an 11-point lead with 5:35 left to play and send the Stan Sheriff Center faithful into a frenzy.  

Once more, the Gauchos’ 3-point marksmanship was on display as Choice and Jessica Grant hit back-to-back triples to pull UCSB back within five with four minutes remaining. Zoe Borter’s short jumper with 3:03 to play made it a three-point affair before UH’s Phillips calmly knocked down a couple free throws with 53 seconds left to make it five again. 

Four straight missed free throws for Hawai’i put slight panic in the crowd after another three went down for Grant to pull the Gauchos within two with 29 seconds left, but MeiLani McBee sent the packed house of Rainbow Wahine fans home happy after icing the game with a pair of makes from the charity stripe – clinching the aforementioned “perfect trifecta” for Laura Beeman’s team. 

So, what was it like for the head woman who had refused to imagine it a moment before the final buzzer? 

“Obviously, a very memorable night for me personally. To have so many people come out… I know it was for these kids; I also know a bit of it was for me and that really, really means a lot to me. Twelve years I’ve been here; I miss my California family, but Hawai’i fills the hole pretty good. To have this many people here tonight… I promise you my mom was in tears on the couch watching this and just the tribute to this team and the program and the hard work,” an emotional, happy Laura Beeman said. 

“I just cannot, I don’t have enough of the right words – *chuckle* I probably need [Spectrum Sports play-by-play talent Kanoa Leahey] for this – to just thank people and my appreciation just runs incredibly deep,” the longtime head coach continued. 

UC Santa Barbara shot an astounding 41.4% from behind the 3-point arc across 29 attempts, perhaps the only sour taste left in the mouth of the Rainbow Wahine on an otherwise perfect night. 

“As far as the game goes, we gave up 36 points from [3-point range]. That’s not something we do, we’re much better from behind the arc,” Beeman said of UH’s defense of the arc. “We need to figure some things out defensively, we’ve kind of stalled and we need to get back to much better defense.” 

The Gauchos were led by another monster Whitfield double-double as the forward posted 21 points and 17 rebounds in a losing effort. Anya Choice and Jessica Grant each poured in 15 points for the visitors, combining for eight of the 12 3-pointers on the night for UCSB. 

Daejah Phillips and Lily Wahinekapu combined for 42 points as the backcourt duo became the first pair of Rainbow Wahine players to score 20 or more points in a game since Amy Atwell and Kallin Spiller did it versus Portland State back on November 21, 2021. Phillips had a game-high 22 points as the junior moved into 23rd all-time on the Rainbow Wahine scoring ladder, passing Val Agee (‘89-’93) on a spectacular night.  

“I thought Daejah Phillips had an amazing first half. She carried us, got her 1,000th point, which is pretty spectacular to do that in one of the biggest-attended games ever,” Laura Beeman beamed about the junior. 

UH got an additional 10 points and eight rebounds from Imani Perez as the 6-foot-4 sophomore once again showed off her continued efficiency with a 5-of-9 night shooting from the floor. 

With the win, the Rainbow Wahine continue to sit atop the entire Big West conference with a 12-3 record since league play began. Hawai’i stays half-a-game ahead of UC Irvine in the win column while holding the season tiebreaker against the Anteaters after the series sweep. 

UH will return to action next Saturday, hitting the road for a matchup against Long Beach State in a rare one-game week for the Rainbow Wahine. Laura Beeman’s squad returns to the Stan Sheriff Center on February 29 to host UC Davis, one of three teams to beat the Wahine this season out of the Big West. 

“I hope fans come back,” Beeman confessed. “I hope they see what we’re trying to build here and the excitement that was in this place… It was electric [tonight].”  

Hawai’i keeps cool, downs Cal Poly late to keep atop Big West standings

Hawai’i keeps cool, downs Cal Poly late to keep atop Big West standings

UH forward Imani Perez drives to the hoop in a home contest for the Rainbow Wahine. Hawai’i beat Cal Poly on February 15, 59-47.

Hawai’i keeps cool, downs Cal Poly late to keep atop Big West standings

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED FEB 15, 2024

HONOLULU — Poise pays off. 

The Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine returned home Thursday night after a rough road loss to UC Davis last weekend and came together late to drop the Cal Poly Mustangs, 59-47. UH guard MeiLani McBee led all scorers with 21 points on the night, 12 coming in the fourth quarter to put the game away for the Rainbow Wahine. 

“I thought it was a great, gritty game by the girls particularly in [the fourth quarter]. Cal Poly plays incredibly hard, they’re very, very physical,” Hawai’i head coach Laura Beeman shared postgame. “I thought we played a little frustrated for the first three-and-a-half quarters and I don’t know why other than we wanted it to come easy and [Cal Poly] wasn’t going to let that happen.” 

Cal Poly jumped things off with a bucket on the Mustangs’ first possession, but Hawai’i quickly and calmly responded with seven of the next nine points to take a three-point advantage into the game’s first media timeout. The Rainbow Wahine continued chugging along offensively as they doubled the Cal Poly output by the quarter’s three-minute mark, 12-6, but the Mustangs would keep the game within a possession going into the second quarter after guard Annika Shah drained a three with just under 30 seconds to play in the first period. 

Visiting Cal Poly continued the momentum with five of the second quarter’s first seven points to knot things at 19, holding the Rainbow Wahine without a point for over four minutes after Lily Wahinekapu’s short jumper to open the frame. UH guard Daejah Phillips got herself going shortly after the second-quarter media timeout by scoring the next five Rainbow Wahine points to push Hawai’i back out in front before connecting with Jacque David on a post-seal feed for a layup to give UH a seven-point lead with just over two minutes remaining the opening half. Once again, Cal Poly’s Shah showed out with late-clock heroics to drill a step back triple to bring the Mustangs within two scores before Wahinekapu got a turnaround jumper to drop at the buzzer to head into the locker room up six, 28-22.  

Hawai’i maintained that six-point halftime lead through the first four minutes out of halftime, trading basket for basket and point for point with Cal Poly before Amanda Olinger’s three from the top of the key made it a three-point game with 5:41 left in the third quarter. The Rainbow Wahine responded after the period’s media timeout with four straight points to push their lead out to seven, but a Sidney Richards’ layup and Sierra Lichtie’s two makes from the charity stripe to close the quarter brought the Mustangs within three entering the fourth, 38-35. 

The visitors continued rolling through the quarter break, taking Cal Poly’s first lead since the opening moments of the contest as Richards drained a pair of free throws to make it 39-38 in favor of the Mustangs. Hawai’i snatched the lead right back as Wahinekapu got the hoop-and-harm to regain a two-point advantage on the next possession. Cal Poly’s Olinger put back her own miss with 5:42 left to play to knot things at 41 momentarily before Hawai’i’s McBee drained her second triple of the night to give a 44-41 lead to the Rainbow Wahine going into the night’s final media timeout.  

Ashley Thoms, who had been battered and bruised all night, hustled around a Mustangs’ screen to force an offensive foul before Kelsie Imai found a cutting McBee backdoor for an and-one to extend the Rainbow Wahine lead back out to six. Cal Poly’s Shah knocked down a three on the following possession to bring the Mustangs within a possession with 4:01 left to play, but that was the closest the visitors would get for the remainder of the night as Sydney Bourland was assessed a technical foul and McBee scored six points in 15 seconds of game action to suddenly give the Rainbow Wahine breathing room. 

“Losing your poise costs you seven points,” Hawai’i’s Beeman said postgame in reference to the Rainbow Wahine’s ability to stay calm down the stretch in a physical game. “You know, we sunk the free throws. We’ve been in a position in the past where we maybe would’ve lost our poise and putting them to the free throw line… [There is] a difference between playing with emotions and playing emotional and I think we played with great emotion tonight, but we did not get emotional.” 

With newfound comfort in the lead, Hawai’i closed out the final minute and a half with six more points while knocking down all four foul shots attempts for the Rainbow Wahine’s sixth Big West win holding an opponent below the half-century mark, 59-47. 

Cal Poly was led by guard Annika Shah’s 14 points on three 3-point makes and 5-of-13 shooting overall in the loss. The Mustangs were held to a rocky 33% shooting from the floor across 51 shots, going 6-of-19 from distance as Cal Poly fell for just the fourth time in Big West play. 

UH McBee’s 21 points led all scorers as the junior guard poured in 12 points in the final quarter to help push the Rainbow Wahine over the top. Sophomore forward Imani Perez added 10 rebounds and four blocks to go along with her five points across just three shots in the win. 

Hawai’i returns to the hardwood Saturday night for “Beeman’s Big Bash” and a rematch of last year’s Big West Tournament championship game when UC Santa Barbara comes to town. General admission tickets for the game are $7, while seniors can save a couple bucks on the price of a ticket at just $5. Keiki are FREE as the Rainbow Wahine attempt to set the attendance record inside SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center for a Laura Beeman-coached game for Hawai’i. 

Hawai’i remains hot, grabs season sweep of UC Irvine behind McBee’s strong 2nd half

Hawai’i remains hot, grabs season sweep of UC Irvine behind McBee’s strong 2nd half

UH guard MeiLani McBee handles the ball in a Feb. 1 game against Cal State Fullerton. McBee had a team-high 14 points two days later in a win against UC Irvine. | Photo Credit: Michael Lasquero, HSRN

Hawai’i remains hot, grabs season sweep of UC Irvine behind McBee’s strong 2nd half

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED FEB 3, 2024

HONOLULU — Not bad practice before “Beeman’s Big Bash” for UH. 

In a fight for first place in the Big West, the Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine (12-8, 9-2 Big West) muscled past the UC Irvine Anteaters, 55-43, Saturday night inside SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center to take sole possession of first place in the conference. 

UH entered the night tied atop the league with UCI (14-7, 8-3 Big West), excited for another chance to defend home court in front of over 1,500 fans and avenge last season’s overtime loss inside the Stan to the Anteaters. The young women responded with an inspired defensive effort against a physical UC Irvine squad, tying the second lowest point total against the Rainbow Wahine since BWC play started. 

“We love Hawai’i, we love playing for our fans and when we can do what we’re supposed to do on our home court, that means a lot to our kids,” Hawai’i head coach Laura Beeman said of her squad after moving to 6-0 inside the friendly confines of Mānoa since Big West play began and 8-3 overall at SimpliFi Arena this season. 

Hawai’i guard Olivia Davies opened the scoring with a left-wing triple, banking in the try to give the lead to the hometown Rainbow Wahine just a minute into action. UCI responded in turn, rattling off the next six points to take a 6-3 lead with 4:59 remaining in the opening quarter. Freshman guard Jade Peacock would end a near-six-minute scoring drought for UH with a pair of free throws before the Rainbow Wahine jumped back ahead 25 seconds later as Daejah Phillips went coast-to-coast and dropped in a layup over the front of the iron to make it 7-6.  

In all, the Rainbow Wahine closed the opening frame on a 10-3 run behind their defense and quality foul shooting to take a 13-9 lead into the second. 

UH’s dynamic backcourt of Phillips and Lily Wahinekapu continued to produce on the offensive end, trading turns creating points for the Rainbow Wahine as the advantage grew as large as 10 not even midway through the second quarter. Hawai’i would maintain around the double-digit lead up until right before halftime when UCI’s Nikki Tom stole away a Davies pass and quickly pushed it ahead to Deja Lee for a layup to beat the clock and bring the Anteaters within nine at the break, 27-18.  

Star sophomore forward Imani Perez, back from a one-game absence due to personal reasons, got the Hawai’i scoring going once again to open the third quarter by draining a mid-range jumper from the top of the key to make it an 11-point lead before back-to-back buckets from Lee brought the visitors back within seven.

After seeing the Hawai’i lead go back up to 11, UC Irvine head coach Tamara Inoue and staff decided to employ a 2-2-1 zone press, slowing down the Rainbow Wahine offense enough to cut the margin down to six with two and a half minutes left in the period — enough to make for an awkwardly-anxious crowd inside the Stan Sheriff Center. 

Laura Beeman’s battle-tested squad did not flinch despite the ever-shrinking lead, responding calmly with a Davies drive-and-kick to a wide open Wahinekapu for a much-needed three-pointer to give UH a nine-point lead heading into the final 10 minutes. 

The Rainbow Wahine opened the final frame with a continued hot hand from long range as MeiLani McBee showed off the quick trigger on a pair of threes and Perez got the hoop-and-harm to extend to a 14-point lead for UH.

“Great to have Imani back,” Beeman smiled admitting postgame. “We needed her as much as she needed us.” 

Despite the Anteaters’ best efforts, UCI’s 0-of-15 night from long distance and the Rainbow Wahine’s defensive grit saw Hawai’i close out the victory, 55-43. 

“We knew it was going to be physical, it was physical the first time [against UC Irvine],” Perez said postgame. “[Coach Beeman] says that we need to be the aggressor and I feel like our team was really ready to take hits today and we knew what they were coming out with.” 

The hard-fought battle resulted in 37 free throws being taken between the two squads and likely just as many bruises from block-outs underneath the basket as the Rainbow Wahine dominated the glass, 44-32.  

“Like I said on Thursday, they are an aggressive team, and we knew we needed to be aggressive, and I think we capitalized on it today,” McBee added. 

McBee led the way in scoring for Hawai’i, dropping all 14 of her points in the second half while collecting seven rebounds along the way. UH’s Wahinekapu added 11 points while Perez piled up 10 points to go along with six boards in her return. 

UCI’s Deja Lee led all scorers with 21 points on 9-of-19 shooting, racking up four steals on the night. No other UC Irvine player broke the double-digit threshold for points as Hawai’i held the Anteaters to just 25% (16-of-64 FG) shooting from the floor overall. 

UH hits the road once again next week for a two-game trip, facing off with UC San Diego for the second time this season before stopping by UC Davis. Hawai’i was a 64-52 winner over UCSD back on January 20 at home and enters the game as the lone team atop the Big West totem pole.  

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.