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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Wahine give Charlotte basketball lesson, 82-59

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

Volleyball All-American Kim Willoughby was back on the court, this time in a basketball uniform for the Wahine. She played seven minutes and scored five points.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Exploiting a typical advantage and debuting an atypical basketball player, the University of Hawai'i Wahine blew by North Carolina Charlotte at the end of each half last night to reach the final of the Ala Moana Hotel Paradise Classic.

Before 888 at Stan Sheriff Center, the Wahine (6-2) defeated the 49ers, 82-59. Hawai'i plays Cleveland State tonight at 8 for the tournament title.

Seniors Karena Greeny (career-high 16 points) and Janka Gabrielova (eight assists) anchored a balanced Wahine attack that featured nine scorers and assists on all but five baskets. Hawai'i made 54 percent of its field-goal attempts, burning the 49ers repeatedly with backdoor passes.

"Watching Hawai'i on film was like seeing a textbook on the fundamentals of basketball," said Katie Meier, Charlotte's first-year coach. "I'll keep that film and put it in my library because they do things the right way. Everybody on the team thinks they're the No. 1 scoring option on every play that's called, and that's neat to see."

The Wahine's foul shooting was not nearly as impressive, but remained the difference in the game. They took 44 free throws to the 49ers' 19 and out-scored them 28-8 from the line.

Hawai'i nursed a 10-point advantage it earned in the final minutes of the first half through a rugged second half that saw four 49ers foul out — often trying to reach over 6-foot-5 Christen Roper.

The Wahine never let their advantage get below seven and propped it up to 13 (48-35) immediately after volleyball All-American Kim Willoughby made her collegiate basketball debut.

"Coach told me to go in," Willoughby said. "I still had all my clothes on. I just said, 'Who?' "

Willoughby rushed in, clothes flying, with Hawai'i up 45-35. Moments later, Gabrielova found her under the basket with a brilliant pass. Willoughby fumbled it out of bounds, laughed with her teammates while running downcourt, then snagged her first rebound.

On that possession, Gabrielova hit her with another sweet pass on an inbounds play. Willoughby hung in the air and hit her first shot as she was fouled. When she went out after four minutes — with four points, a rebound and a steal — the Wahine led 53-44 and were about to ice the game.

Aside from Alicia Abernathy's three 3-pointers, Charlotte — held to sub-30 percent shooting — didn't have a basket for more than 10 minutes. Meanwhile, Roper began burying free throws, and Gabrielova and April Atuaia were picking apart the 49er defense with inside passes.

Hawai'i scored 13 straight to go up 67-47 with 5:01 left.

The first half featured four ties and eight lead changes. Charlotte (5-4) lost starting post players Abernathy and Jen Williams to foul trouble six minutes into the game and Hawai'i was in the bonus three minutes later, but never took advantage.

The Wahine made just 7-of-15 free throws — UNC was 2-for-2 — but still pulled away when their guards scored the final 10 points of the half.

Cleveland State held off Tennessee State in the opener, 91-79, for its fourth consecutive victory. The game featured 56 fouls and 39 turnovers.

The Vikings (4-3) led by as many as 22 in the second half. The Tigers cut their deficit in half with 4:51 remaining, but could never get it to single digits.

Erika Roudebush scored 36 points to lead Cleveland State. LaRissa Thomas had 38 points and 17 rebounds for Tennessee State.