UH women finish strong in 69-56 win
• Photo gallery: Hawaii vs. Utah State women's basketball
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
Hawai'i missed a chance to pull away from Utah State early last night. An animated halftime speech helped the Rainbow Wahine avoid the same mistake in a 69-56 victory.
The Western Athletic Conference women's basketball game was watched by 913 at Stan Sheriff Center.
Junior guard Leilani Galdones had the first double-double of her career (13 points, 10 rebounds) to lift the 'Bows (8-10, 2-3 WAC). But it was their balance that finally did in the Aggies (10-8, 2-3), who lost their third straight in a game between teams picked to finish seventh and eighth in the preseason.
All eight Rainbow Wahine that played scored. Senior Dita Liepkalne (12 points, 8 rebounds) and sophomore Breanna Arbuckle (11 and 7) came close to double-doubles, and reserve Allie Patterson had 11 points.
Briauna Linton (8 points) gave the 'Bows a breathtaking few minutes, particularly in the first half when she helped them to a 25-12 advantage with two graceful baseline drives.
"She brought us some really good energy off the bench," UH coach Dana Takahara-Dias said. "Her athleticism really causes some difficulties and when she takes it on the dribble she's very, very smooth."
But Hawai'i let it all get away. USU went on a 16-2 surge to go ahead 28-27. The game was tied at 31 at the half.
"It was our third straight game so I think we started a little dazed," Liepkalne said. "Halftime speech was intense enough to make us realize we really had to play a more intense and attacking game to win."
Takahara said she spoke "politely" of the virtue of building on a lead instead of letting teams come back. Her team remembered that in the second half and finished with a flourish.
"I said some really encouraging things to make them understand it's all about pride and protecting the house we work so hard in," Takahara said. "But more importantly it's just to make sure we take care of the little things."
Hawai'i plays at Louisiana Tech Thursday and Boise State Saturday. The rugged road to Ruston will be easier after outscoring the Aggies 27-12 in the final 11 minutes last night.
The final tie of the game came at 44. It was the beginning of a 9-2 Hawai'i run that put it ahead, 51-46, with 7:34 showing. This time, UH was serious about the separation.
After Utah State broke a three-minute drought with two free throws, the teams traded a flurry of turnovers. USU scored first after the comedy of errors, but Arbuckle hit over 6-foot-5 Lydia Whitehead to make it 53-45, then snagged one of her four steals.
That led to a Galdones' 3-pointer. The Aggies answered with a 3-pointer of their own, but the 'Bows hit 11 free throws in the final 2:15.
Those were anything but routine. UH made just 7 of its first 16 foul shots.
The Rainbow Wahine's constantly switching pressure defenses distracted the Aggies enough that they shot just 34 percent. It was a new wrinkle that requires mind and matter.
"We were trying very hard for our players to read the offense and react and anticipate," Takahara said. "They made really good, smart decisions tonight."
For once, the opponents had more turnovers than the Rainbows, even if it was just one more (21-20).
"We turned the ball over way too much, unnecessary turnovers, not necessarily forced," said USU coach Raegan Pebley. "They were careless passes, wanting to do too much at the wrong time.
"I think Dana's doing an awesome job getting this team playing hard and believing in themselves and they're getting better and better."
Whitehead had her fourth double-double of the season (11 points and 11 rebounds) for the Aggies. Nicole Johnson, their 6-2 forward, added a career-high 12 rebounds.
Still, Hawai'i out-rebounded USU (44-35) behind the 5-foot-6 Galdones.
"The posts did a good job boxing out their people so the little guards could get their rebounds," Liepkalne said.
"I'm actually a post," Galdones joked. "A lot of them were tips and loose rebounds."
Senior Megan Tinnin is back in school this semester and practicing with the Rainbows. Tinnin, who would have been UH's leading returning scorer, went home to Albuquerque, N.M., last semester to deal with family issues. She plans to play her final year next season.
Kamehameha graduate Pualei Furtado, from Käne'ohe, is a walk-on for Utah State. She scored three points last night against Hawai'i.