More than half the Wahine basketball players are underclassmen and nearly half the team is new this year. Yet University of Hawaii coach Vince Goo insists hes not worried as his 10-3 team embarks on its first road trip of a two-month-old season.
"We know how to travel," he said. "We have really good leaders and the younger ones have been very, very receptive to that leadership. I dont have too many concerns at this point."
The Wahine will travel to Texas-El Paso (6-9, 2-2) for a Western Athletic Conference game today, and Tulsa (3-9, 0-1) for another Tuesday. Both games will be broadcast live on KCCN (1420 AM, 10:45 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. HST).
The Wahine are halfway to another 20-win season and 1-1 in the WAC thanks in large part to three nationally ranked statistics: They are fifth in field-goal percentage defense, holding teams to less than 35 percent shooting; 15th in 3-point shooting percentage (.397); and sophomore Christen Roper is second in blocks, at just under three a game.
Roper, who is 6-foot-4, will start again today in place of senior Dainora Puida. The Wahine covet Ropers ability to alter shots. Against Southern Methodist on Jan. 7, she grabbed five rebounds and caught the first shot attempted over her in the first 21/2 minutes.
When Roper got into foul trouble, as she is prone to do, Puida put in a serious bid to start again by finishing with 16 points and 13 rebounds. The centers combined for 23 rebounds four fewer than SMU.
"There is not a lot of difference between the two," Goo said. "Dainora played good in the second half. Obviously, she played with a lot more intensity than she did the three halves before that."
Hawaii set a school record by hitting 11 3-pointers in last weeks game against Texas Christian. Senior Crystal Lee tied the individual record with six 3s. She is shooting nearly 50 percent from beyond the arc.
The Wahines focus today will be inside the paint on UTEP sophomore center Amy Pack. Pack, the WAC Freshman of the Year, scored all the Miners first-half points in Hawaii last season. Shes averaging 25 points and 10 rebounds in conference games this year.
Tulsa lost its WAC opener Thursday at Rice (65-54). The Golden Hurricane return just two starters from the second-best team in school history. Tulsa finished fourth in the WAC last year and was 6-1 at home, including a 54-40 victory over the Wahine.
OVER AND BACK: Redshirt freshman Julia Washington is still recovering from a stress fracture in her left foot. Washington, who has yet to play for the Wahine, did not travel with the team. ... Hawaiis next home game is Jan. 21 against San Jose State. That will be preceded by the annual alumnae game. ... The TCU loss was the first time the Wahine had been defeated in a WAC opener, and their first WAC home loss since Feb. 13, 1999. ... Hawaiis loss last week dropped it from the low-50s to the mid-50s in the two published power ratings.
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