Wahine turn back Spartans
Just when it looked like this would be the big one that got away, the University of Hawai'i Wahine reeled in San Jose State last night, 66-57, at the Events Center.
The victory kept Hawai'i (14-4 overall, 7-2 conference) in second place in the Western Athletic Conference. The Spartans (11-8, 6-4) fell from third to fifth. Two weeks and four victories ago UH was in fifth.
The Wahine changed their starting lineup for the first time this season, with freshman Chelsea Wagner playing for injured April Atuaia. The transition appeared seamless through the first four minutes of the second half, as UH pulled ahead 39-22.
Then Cricket Williams, the WAC's leading scorer, jump-started the Spartans' offense. San Jose State went on a 30-10 run over the next 11 minutes. Jessica Kellogg's 3-pointer with 4:44 left gave the Spartans a 52-49 advantage their first lead since 2-0.
"They are the kind of team that can be down, but you give them a little room and a reason to get excited and they come back like gangbusters because they're talented and can shoot," UH coach Vince Goo said. "We had some turnovers in the second half and we didn't pick them up tight enough."
Last season San Jose State beat Hawai'i for the first time in six years with a late rally. This season the Wahine, behind seniors Janka Gabrielova and Karena Greeny, owned the final four-plus minutes.
"Our players insisted it was conditioning, probably because they don't want to run anymore," Goo said. "There was a lot of composure on our part down the stretch."
Goo also hit home when he told his team, " 'If April were here she'd really be disappointed in our defense.' That shook them up a little."
Natasja Allen's free throws closed Hawai'i's gap to one and Greeny's 3-pointer as the shot clock expired put UH ahead with 3:40 showing. Gabrielova then stole the ball and found Greeny for a breakaway basket.
San Jose State scored its last basket to pull to 56-54, but Greeny and Gabrielova scored on successive possessions to make it 60-54 with 1:51 to go. The Wahine went 6-for-11 from the foul line after that, while Williams' free throws were all the Spartans could manage. She finished with 18 points.
Gabrielova had 17 points and seven assists. Greeny and Allen combined for 28 points and 15 rebounds. Atari Parker, who torched Hawai'i for 30 points last year, was shut out yesterday by Wagner.