'Bows finish off Vandals
• Photo gallery: Hawaii vs. Idaho womens' basketball
by Stanley Lee
Advertiser Staff Writer
After going back and forth the entire game against Idaho, the Rainbow Wahine basketball team responded with a committent to close out with a win.
"I really think that the players had a gut-check time," Hawai'i coach Dana Takahara-Dias said after last night's 62-52 win at the Stan Sheriff Center. "We talked about that many times during the game and down the end when we had to finish it, we were able to do it tonight with really great basketball and smart basketball."
Breanna Arbuckle scored 18 points and Keisha Kanekoa added 15 points to help the Rainbow Wahine (7-9, 1-2) snap a two-game Western Athletic Conference losing streak in front of a crowd of 727.
"Coach Dana just told us to stay focused and we just followed what she said," Arbuckle said.
Idaho (2-13, 0-2 WAC) closed to 49-46 on Bianca Cheever's wide-open 3-pointer with 5:08 remaining, but Kanekoa hit a 3 a minute later to start a 9-1 run to help Hawai'i pull away. Arbuckle scored four points and Julita Bungaite hit two free throws to extend the lead to 58-47 with 1:31 left.
"Breanna did a a good job," Kanekoa said. "There were two girls in foul trouble so she kept on going at them knowing (they) had foul trouble, so she did a good of that in the paint."
Kanekoa played all but one minute because reserve point guard Mai Ayabe tore her ACL during Saturday's loss at New Mexico State. Ayabe, who played in all 15 games and averaged 3.2 points, is out for the remainder of the season. She is the second Rainbow Wahine whose season has ended with an ACL injury. Freshman Shawna Kuehu tore her ACL in a game in November.
Kanekoa knew it was a challenge going into last night's game without a reserve point guard, and thought she did "all right."
Her numbers spoke of a complete game. She had eight rebounds, five assists and just one turnover. She was averaging four turnovers a game.
"When you have runs like this in this kind of game, it's really encouraging to see our team being the one making the runs instead of playing catch up," Takahara said. "We knew the Vandals are a tough team, they play hard, but we also know and have faith in the team over here to finish strong."
Shaena-Lyn Kuehu, a Punahou graduate and Shawna's twin, led Idaho with 13 points and Cheever added 10. The Vandals shot just 25 percent from the field, but remained close for most of the game. They rallied from a 10-point deficit to tie the game at 26 at halftime, briefly led in the second half, and got a three-point play from freshman Natasha Helsham, an 'Aiea graduate, to close to 45-41 with 8:11 left.
"Defensively, we communicated and did a better job in the first half," said Idaho coach Jon Newlee, a former Rainbow Wahine assistant. "In the second half, down at the other end when they have to talk and don't have us really directing things, I thought we were really broken down, and I thought that was a big key."
Hawai'i's Megan Tinnin, who returned to New Mexico last semester because of personal reasons, has returned to school and is practicing with the team. She was last year's leading scorer and will take the floor next season.