Fresno routs UH, 83-55
by Stanley Lee
Advertiser Staff Writer
RENO, Nev. — A promising start didn't last long for the Rainbow Wahine basketball team.
Eighth-seeded Hawai'i surged ahead against top-seeded Fresno State at yesterday's Western Athletic Conference Tournament quarterfinals. The Rainbow Wahine handled the full-court press and got into an offensive rhythm, leading 12-4 with the game four minutes old.
Then the press began to wear on the Rainbow Wahine, and the Bulldogs were overwhelming in an 83-55 win at the Lawlor Events Center.
"When you run into a Fresno team, a very strong team offensively and defensively, and one that has been in this position many times before being the defending WAC champion, you know you're going to run into a well-oiled machine," Hawai'i coach Dana Takahara-Dias said. "We came out hard and we came out fast and furious, (but) we were unable to maintain the lead."
Dita Liepkalne and Keisha Kanekoa scored 12 points each to lead Hawai'i, which ended the season 10-20. Breanna Arbuckle had 11 points and Allie Patterson added nine in front of a crowd of about 150.
"We tend to start good and then we drift down a little," Liepkalne said. "Everyone believed we could win so we started strong and hit some good shots and played good defense. From there, I don't know what happened."
Fresno State (26-5), which advanced to play No. 4 Idaho (11-19) in tomorrow's semifinals, continued to press and chipped away by driving into the lane against just one Rainbow Wahine defender. Fresno State tied it 16-16, then outscored Hawai'i 33-12 the rest of the half. The Bulldogs shot 62 percent (18 of 29) in the first half, including 8 of 13 from 3-point range, to lead 49-28 at intermission.
The Rainbow Wahine began to settle for jumpers, then lost an inside presence when Arbuckle picked up her second foul five minutes into the game. Fresno State forced 13 first-half turnovers and 24 for the game.
"We were able to use our defense to create some pressure and force some mistakes," said Fresno State's Adrian Wiggins, the WAC Coach of the Year. "It became more of snowball effect and we really went on a nice 25-minute run where we played nice basketball."
Jaleesa Ross scored 15 points, Hayley Munro added 11, and Rosie Moult and Joh-Teena Filipe each had 10 for the Bulldogs.
Fresno State maintained its pressure in the second half, extending its lead to 72-36 with 14:49 left.
"Our pace was a big part of our success," said Ross, the WAC Defensive Player of the Year. "We pushed the ball hard on the offensive end and defensively try to get up and be aggressive and create that pace on offense."
Hawai'i had one of its best stretches midway through the second half, holding Fresno State scoreless for six minutes. But the Rainbow Wahine missed a bunch of easy shots that could have further cut into the deficit.
"Probably not the way we liked to end," Kanekoa said. "We learned a lot making it to the WAC Tournament. Definitely a good experience for the younger girls."
KUEHU HELPS IDAHO WIN
Shaena-Lyn Kuehu, a Punahou alum, had 22 points and 10 rebounds to help No. 4 Idaho beat No. 5 New Mexico State, 75-63, to advance to the school's first-ever WAC semifinal appearance.
"Coach told us at halftime to go out with no regrets and that's what we did," said Kuehu, a sophomore whose twin, Shawna, is on the Hawai'i roster. "We passed the ball, made our shots and we made hustle plays. I think that it's a team effort."
New Mexico State (18-13) cut a seven-point deficit to 58-57 with 4:35 remaining, but Idaho (11-19) responded with two 3-pointers and sealed it with free throws.
"We calmed down, played together and got out to their shooters and made them rush their shots, and when they were rushing, they weren't hitting anything, and we just capitalized on the rebounds," Kuehu said.
Yinka Olorunnife had 23 points and 10 rebounds and Rachele Kloke had 12 points for the Vandals, who started the season 2-11.
Idaho's Natasha Helsham, an 'Aiea grad, played 14 minutes and fellow freshman Kanisha Bello, a Waiākea grad, played three minutes. Neither scored. Their families were in attendance, along with the family of associate coach Gavin Petersen, an University High graduate. Petersen and head coach Jon Newlee were former UH assistants.
In other quarterfinal games: No. 3 Nevada beat No. 6 Boise State, 64-59, and No. 2 Louisiana Tech defeated No. 7 Utah State, 82-65.
Notes: The UH band made the trip to Reno, holding fundraisers to help pay for the trip. UH baton twirler Shannon Dresser, who is also a member of the cross country and track teams, performed during timeouts and at halftime.