Aggies turn back Rainbow Wahine
• Photo gallery: Hawaii vs. New Mexico State basketball
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
Too tenacious to go away but not yet tough enough to win, the Rainbow Wahine basketball team charged back from an awful start last night only to come up short again.
New Mexico State hammered Hawai'i early, just as it did five weeks ago in Las Cruces. This time, the 'Bows came back for more before running out of time in a 75-67 Western Athletic Conference loss.
The Rainbow Wahine (9-14, 3-7 WAC) tormented a tiny Stan Sheriff Center crowd of 506 with terrible defense in the first half, then teased it with their potential in the second.
They closed to 67-66 with 2:35 left when Breanna Arbuckle's behind-the-back pass led to a Julita Bungaite layup. But Hawai'i missed its last seven shots while the Aggies made six free throws and a layup to clinch it.
It ended just like Saturday's close-was-no-consolation loss to WAC leader Fresno State.
"You take a look at our team and we were down 19 in the first half," said UH coach Dana Takahara-Dias. "We were down by so many points and we still were able to come back into the game, have the crowd get into it and we were only down a bucket with 1:36 left.
"That's the heart and soul of this team, having a chance to win it at the end. Right now the inexperience. We've talked to the team about not feeling down about the losses but looking at the positives. We've dug ourselves many holes this year but now it's refreshing because we finish strong now. It didn't happen a month ago against Fresno or New Mexico a month ago. We were down and we stayed down. But this time we had a chance to win it at the end and that's all you can ask for as coaches."
The Rainbow Wahine trailed 46-32 at halftime. It was an improvement over the 42-20 deficit they faced at NMSU and the 19-point gap they gave themselves less than 14 minutes into last night's game while the Aggies picked apart their defense.
It proved to be too much against New Mexico State (16-8, 6-4), which solidified its hold on fourth place in the WAC with a third straight win.
Arbuckle led Hawai'i with 16 points, hitting her first three shots to provide some hope at the end of the first half, then putting practically all the Aggies' post players in foul trouble to start the second.
She wasn't happy when it was over, but she was still hopeful.
"When we played at New Mexico," the sophomore said, "everybody just we didn't give up but it was just too much for us. Here, at home, we had the crowd behind us and it was just better."
Allie Patterson and Bungaite added 11 apiece for UH. Madison Spence scored 17 for the Aggies and Crystal Boyd had 16.
Those two had 26 at halftime, as NMSU went on a 20-4 surge to take a 24-11 lead before the game was nine minutes old. Hawai'i scored the next two baskets, then turned the ball over three straight times, and the Aggies converted each one.
Hawai'i started its comeback coming out of the locker room. It outscored NMSU 18-8 to start the second half, closing to 54-50.
"I thought they (the Rainbows) competed a lot better about halfway through the first half ," said NMSU coach Darin Spence. "They kept fighting through some of their bad times, which is what they weren't doing earlier. They are a lot better than what they were early on."
The Aggies pulled away again, before the Rainbows put together their final surge and cut a 66-59 deficit to one in less than two minutes.
The Rainbow Wahine leave tomorrow for games at Idaho Saturday, Nevada Monday and San Jose State Wednesday.