'Bows battle this time, but fall to FSU, 78-69
• Photo gallery: Hawaii vs. Fresno State womens' basketball
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
A month after being ripped in Raisin Country, the Rainbow Wahine became much more than a basketball bump in the road for Western Athletic Conference leader Fresno State last night.
But today, the Bulldogs (18-5) remain perfect in the WAC at 9-0 after a 78-69 victory extended their winning streak to 10.
Before a Stan Sheriff Center crowd of 779, Hawai'i (9-13) fell to 3-6 with a gritty performance that, ideally, will be something to build on in the second half of the WAC season.
It was a dramatic difference from the conference opener a month ago in Fresno, when the Rainbows were thrashed, 83-42, by the two-time defending conference champions.
"The effort was great," said UH coach Dana Takahara-Dias. "Sure we had a loss tonight, but I really thought we won in a lot of departments like pride, and the mere fact that we made some adjustments from the first time and it looked much better tonight."
Fresno coach Adrian Wiggins was more complimentary.
"Honestly, Hawai'i is just a good team," he said. "They like each other. They're playing hard for their coach. It's obvious they are really happy and doing well."
In the opening half, Hawai'i was hammered under the offensive boards and turned the ball over 16 times against a rabid Bulldogs' press.
Still, UH was down just 35-30, a huge departure from the 42-19 halftime hole it dug in Fresno. Hawai'i stayed with Fresno State possession by frantic possession.
The 'Bows blew a breakaway and layup on consecutive possessions, took 14 fewer shots and still stayed close. Keisha Kanekoa, who played all 40 minutes, had a game's worth of statistics by halftime, with nine points, five assists and three rebounds.
She would finish with 14 points and eight assists. But it was the 'Bows' other guard who kept them close in the second half, with Leilani Galdones getting 15 of her career-high 20 points after the break.
Galdones hit two free throws after a technical was called on FSU's Marnique Arnold — the Bulldogs were also called for a flagrant foul — to tie it at 48 with 13:41 remaining.
Fresno State outscored Hawai'i 11-2 over the next five minutes, Jaleesa Ross getting four of her 22 points in the flurry. The 'Bows could not get closer than six again, with Hayley Munroe hitting eight free throws to hold them off.
It was not for lack of effort. The 'Bows pressured the Bulldogs, who led the country in 3-pointers last season, into 25 percent shooting (4 of 16) from outside the arc.
"We saw a lot of 3s the first time we saw them," Takahara said. "We also had to make sure we defended the putbacks. They crash a lot on the offensive board. But what a great effort by both teams."
Hawa'i hit nearly half its shots and had assists on nearly half of those. It cut its turnovers down to seven and matched FSU rebound for rebound in the second half, which had four lead changes and was tied five times.
And, the 'Bows may have out-pressured the relentless Bulldogs on defense with a frenetic look Galdones described as "every man for themself." Hawai'i still switched off like crazy on screens, but also tried to "deny everything." FSU took 14 more shots but made just three more baskets.
"We just didn't get enough defensive stops at the end," Galdones said. "It was all about defense tonight and we just couldn't get it at the end."