Utah State holds off UH, 53-51
Two drives came up empty in the final 30 seconds yesterday and so did Hawai'i as Utah State held off the Rainbow Wahine, 53-51, to end the regular season. The Western Athletic Conference basketball game was watched by 855 at the Dee Smith Glen Spectrum in Logan, Utah.
The Rainbows finished 10-19 overall and 4-12 in the conference, losing all eight road games. They will be seeded eighth in the WAC Tournament, and open Wednesday (10 a.m. HST) against top seed and defending champion Fresno State.
Utah State (13-16, 5-11 WAC) earned the seventh seed and faces second-seeded Louisiana Tech.
Hawai'i took an early 16-11 lead in an ugly opening half that saw both teams miss more than 70 percent of their shots. The Aggies outscored UH 14-5 in the final minutes to take a 25-21 advantage at halftime.
"We knew we could get back in the game by being more patient and getting into a rhythm on the offensive end," UH coach Dana Takahara-Dias said. "We were happy with our production in the second half, where we shot 48 percent. It still wasn't enough today, taking into account we only had six free-throw opportunities as opposed to Utah's 19."
The Rainbow Wahine did rally in the second half. They went on a 14-3 run, with senior Dita Liepkalne scoring seven of her game-high 13 points, to pull ahead 39-35 with 9:03 showing.
Utah State took a timeout, regrouped and made a closing run. It outscored UH 12-2 in the next five minutes then held off a furious Rainbow rally at the end.
Keisha Kanekoa's three-point play cut USU's advantage to 51-49 with 30 seconds left. The Aggies missed a foul shot and Breanna Arbuckle grabbed her 12th rebound. Kanekoa drove and was called for a charge — UH's 21st turnover. Soon after, TaHara Williams hit a free throw to make it 52-49 with 17 seconds to play.
"That was a really vital, vital possession," said Takahara, whose team was outscored 12-4 on the foul line. "Keisha was going to the basket and, to our amazement, it was a player-control foul. That was a big one."
Kanekoa got that basket back to cut the gap to one with 11 seconds left and Arbuckle fouled Williams. She made her first free throw but missed her second. Allie Patterson grabbed the rebound and threw the outlet pass to Kanekoa, who drove hard to the basket again but her shot fell off the rim.
"We are just playing better as a unit now, much better than we were early on in the WAC, like every other team," Takahara said.