Freshmen lift Wahine, 74-52
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
As a basketball barometer, yesterday's exhibition between the University of Hawai'i Wahine and what's left of New Zealand's national team displayed the good, the bad and the breathtaking.
Cory Lum The Honolulu Advertiser
Wahine Natasja Allen scores against defensive pressure by New Zealand's Aneka Kerr in the first half. Allen scored 11 points and played well in the post.
Cory Lum The Honolulu Advertiser
The bad? Beyond a small afternoon crowd of 250 at Stan Sheriff Center, that would be a number of defensive breakdowns from a team that went 26-8 last season on the strength of one of the country's best defenses.
"We need a lot of work defensively," UH coach Vince Goo admitted. "In the post area, and not just our post people. Everyone was being posted up. We need to do a lot better job. They are a very physical team. Their shortest kid was 5-10 so our guards looked small out there."
Freshmen Chelsea Wagner and Jade Abele provided the breathtaking. Neither started in a game where only three Wahine played more than 20 minutes. Both shot their nerves out, draining 9-of-13 from beyond the arc.
Wagner, Oregon's Player of the Year as a senior, came up particularly big against the Tall Ferns. She buried 6-of-9 3's and scored more than a point (20) a minute (19).
"Chelsea surprised me," Abele said. "She did really well, actually. What was that? A million 3's?"
Abele came up from Australia last January and watched while Hawai'i made its emotional run to the WNIT semifinals. When she finally got her chance yesterday, she missed just one rushed shot, scored 13 points, gathered six rebounds and added a pair of assists and steals.
Captain Karena Greeny hit both her 3-point attempts in the second half as the Wahine shot 43 percent from beyond the arc, 37 overall.
"To make 12 3's is going to win them a lot of games," New Zealand coach Tracy Carpenter said. "They seem to have some good balance. They have size. I really liked 32 (Natasja Allen). She's very active.
"Hawai'i did a good job. They're in system and they're hungry and wanting to impress. And they did."
Allen, who started, left a possible 20-point game on the foul line. She had 11 points, but made just 3-of-12 free throws.
Goo came out with Allen, Greeny and his three returning starters Janka Gabrielova, April Atuaia and Christen Roper. Gabrielova was at her irritating best, drawing offensive fouls, disrupting New Zealand's offense the Tall Ferns had 25 turnovers and providing four assists and three steals.
Atuaia and Roper floundered offensively. Atuaia, the WAC Freshman of the Year last season, missed all nine shots. Roper was 3-for-11 from pretty much point-blank range, but grabbed 11 rebounds and swatted four shots. Goo blamed her shooting on a Hannibal Lecter-like mask she wore to protect a nose "nearly broken" in practice.
"Some of our returnees didn't have great games," Goo said. "But they know what confidence is, what they can do. Some of the younger ones had good games. Jade and Chelsea played with composure. And they scored within the system. That was really good. They played with maturity."
Hawai'i went on a 16-7 run to close the first half with a 37-26 advantage. New Zealand scored the first five points of the second half and held the Wahine scoreless more than four minutes. Hawai'i warmed up, hitting the next 11 points to put the game away.
Sally Farmer, Donna Lofhagen and Megan Compain were the only current national team members on New Zealand's nine-woman roster. The Tall Ferns did not bring former Wahine Tania Brunton Tupu. Like many of her Olympic teammates, Brunton is now working for a living. New Zealand's players paid $400 apiece for this trip.
The Wahine open their season in the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort Classic next weekend. They face Washington State Saturday at 3 p.m. Texas A&M plays Portland State coached by former UH assistant George Wolfe at 1 p.m.