By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
With the Western Athletic Conference basketball season half over, the University of Hawaii Wahine face a pressing problem.
Since the conference started every team has thrown some version of full-court pressure at the Wahine. Will it continue?
"Definitely," UH coach Vince Goo said. "They all think theyre quicker than we are."
"Yeah," Goo admitted.
Especially Rice, Hawaiis opponent in a rare 7 p.m. Sunday game tonight at Stan Sheriff Center. The Owls lost three starters two to the WNBA from last seasons WAC championship team, and 66 percent of their offense. Their quickness remains.
Now it is in the form of freshman Kate Beckler, the 2000 Los Angeles Times Player of the Year, and other first-year starters such as SMU transfer Jennifer Rigg and sophomore Kara Ligget. Kenya Tuttle returns, and remembers the relentless pressure that kick-started the programs finest season one year ago.
The Owls (11-7) evened their WAC record at 3-3 Friday with a victory at San Jose State. They have led the conference in turnover margin the past three years and are second now. Hawaii (13-4, 4-2) is last.
"My problem is because in our first games there was no pressure on me," said Janka Gabrielova, UHs first-year point guard. "The last few games they started to pressure me, and I didnt expect that. Nobody was open, I had nowhere to pass and started thinking I have to do nah, nah, nah, nah. This changes all the offense."
Gabrielova said she finally found a comfort level against the press in Thursdays second half against Tulsa. Rice rarely lets anyone find a comfort level.
"Rice is going to come out with more intensity and pressure, a little more quickness," Goo said. "I think its going to be a lot more man than zone pressure so were going to have to handle the dribble."
This season, the Owls primary concern has been offense. In a loss to TCU last week, they scored 35 points their lowest total in 20 years. They are hitting just 36 percent of their shots.
That is what the Wahine have been allowing this season.
"Hawaii has an overall more effective game," said Tulsa coach Kathy McConnell-Miller. "Rice, any one player is capable of stepping up and having a great night. They are very different teams.
"Rice really has to run on Hawaii. I dont think you can beat Hawaii by attacking them at the half-court level. Rice isnt as capable of running as they have been in the past, but for Rice to win they will have to run. That point guard (Gabrielova) has to step up for Hawaii. If theyre going to be successful, they need her to effectively run that team."
OVER AND BACK: All-conference guard Marla Brumfield graduated from Rice in May, became the first WAC player chosen in the WNBA draft and played for the Minnesota Lynx. She is now the Owls assistant coach.
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