RAINBOW WAHINE BASKETBALL
Rainbow Wahine's new defense drawing attention
The Hawaii Rainbow Wahine basketball team saved its longest road trip of the season for last.
The squad that has thrived away from home this season left town Monday night and closes the regular season with Western Athletic Conference games at New Mexico State tomorrow and No. 19 Louisiana Tech on Saturday.
UH is 6-2 on the road this season and has won its last three games on the mainland.
"We seem to play pretty decent on the road, so even though it's going to be a tough road swing, we're looking forward to it," UH coach Jim Bolla said after the Wahine closed their home schedule with two wins last week.
By winning four straight games and six of their last seven, the Wahine (17-8, 8-6) have already assured themselves of the program's first winning season since the 2002-03 campaign.
UH is tied with Nevada for third place in the league and will finish no lower than fourth. If the teams end the week still tied, the Wolf Pack owns the tiebreaker over the Wahine.
Hawaii might be even higher in the standings, if not for two heartbreaking home losses to NMSU and LaTech last month.
The Wahine squandered an opportunity to upset Louisiana Tech and lost 71-66 in overtime. Two nights later, a 22-for-42 performance at the free-throw line proved costly in a 72-69 double-overtime defeat to NMSU.
The Aggies have won just three times since then and snapped a six-game skid with a 56-55 win over Idaho on Saturday.
LaTech (22-4, 14-1), meanwhile, is on an 11-game winning streak and is 12-0 at home this season. The Lady Techsters have clinched at least a share of their fifth consecutive WAC title and can wrap up the outright crown with a win over UH on Saturday.
"They're kind of gearing up and they want to continue their string of going to the NCAA tournament," Bolla said. "We'll just go play. Throw it up and see what happens."
A lot has changed since UH hosted New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech, and a new wrinkle in the Rainbow Wahine scheme has the Aggies and Bulldogs scrambling for recent game footage.
Bolla recently implemented an "amoeba" defense, basically a 1-3-1 zone, that proved effective in the Wahine win over San Jose State last Saturday. The new look not only paid off last week, but gives upcoming opponents something else to think about when scouting UH.
"We still need to refine it, but that just comes from doing it every day," Bolla said. "I think we're getting more comfortable with it. The kids really liked it. I know New Mexico State and LaTech have requested our last two games on tape, so they're going to get to look at it. They can look at it, but it's not something that's common. It's a pretty unique defense."
In their wins over Idaho and SJSU, the Wahine limited the Vandals and Spartans to 30 percent shooting (39-for-128) combined from the field. UH was particularly stingy in the second half, allowing just 14 field goals in 60 attempts in the two games.