Hawai’i to make appearance in inaugural WBIT, will take on #2 Cal

Hawai’i to make appearance in inaugural WBIT, will take on #2 Cal

Hawai’i to make appearance in inaugural WBIT, will take on #2 Cal

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED MAR 17, 2024

HONOLULU — The Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine are dancing into March with a postseason tournament for the third consecutive season. 

The Big West Conference regular season champions found out Sunday that their season would continue in Berkeley, California on Thursday, March 21 for the first round of the inaugural Women’s Basketball Invitation Tournament as UH takes on their fourth Pac-12 opponent of the season in the Cal Golden Bears. 

The Rainbow Wahine went a sparkling 17-3 throughout the Big West slate to clinch the outright regular season conference title and top seed in last weekend’s Big West tournament. After a double-bye into the semifinals, Hawai’i’s hopes at a third consecutive conference tournament crown were stopped short by fifth-seeded UC Davis in the final four, 51-48. 

It was an uncharacteristic performance for UH, who lost Big West 6th Player of the Year Daejah Phillips to a lower leg injury midway through the semifinals while suffering one of the worst shooting days all season. Though they had eyes on the NCAA Tournament for a third straight year, the Rainbow Wahine won’t take still getting a postseason tournament chance for granted. 

“We’re playing in the postseason, that’s where we wanted to be,” Hawai’i head coach Laura Beeman said Sunday after the team found out their first-round opponent. “I think the girls in the next couple days will get pretty excited about the opportunity ahead.” 

“I think it’s great for women’s basketball that we have another tournament where it’s not pay-to-play,” she continued. “To have a tournament that they’re taking seriously – it sounds that they’re going to make it a very good event, a well-run event – I think that it’s time and women’s basketball deserves that so to be a part of that [first iteration] is great. We definitely want to keep playing, definitely want to put a mark on it all so yeah, we’re looking forward to it.” 

Hawai’i has yet to win a postseason tournament game (non-Big West tournament) under Laura Beeman and has not won a postseason tournament game in general since the 2001 WNIT. It is the lone thing missing from the decorated coach’s resume in Hawai’i and something she and a 2023-24 Rainbow Wahine team full of winners still desire. 

After going 0-3 against Pac-12 competition in non-conference play, Beeman and her team look forward to another chance against a member of the historic conference that will see itself ripped apart next season by the college re-alignment in football. 

“Cal is in the Pac-12, so they’ve played some really good competition, but I think we can show up and give them a great game and that’s what our goal is going to be,” the 12th-year head coach stated. “It gives us another opportunity to see where we measure up to them. I would love [another] opportunity to beat a Pac-12 school this year, for sure.” 

Hawai’i will play on Thursday, March 21 at 4:00 p.m. HT on ESPN+ against Cal, the #2 seed. The winner of that game will take on the victor of Seton Hall and #3 Saint Joseph’s in the Sweet 16 round on March 24. The winners from each of the four regional brackets will meet up in Indianapolis inside Hinkle Fieldhouse for the Final Four and WBIT Championship from April 1-3.