RAINBOW WAHINE BASKETBALL
Wahine's WAC title quest begins
Success in the Western Athletic Conference women's basketball tournament has eluded Hawaii the past three seasons when the Rainbow Wahine were ousted in their first game.
UH's last championship-game appearance was in 2002.
Tomorrow is the final chance for four-year seniors Brittany Grice, Pam Tambini, Janevia Taylor and Amber Lee to advance past the quarterfinal round when the Wahine play Fresno State at 9 a.m. Hawaii time.
The Wahine arrived in Las Cruces, N.M., on Sunday. They took the day off from practice to rest. Yet, much to acting head coach Pat Charity's surprise and concern, the players were sluggish in yesterday's practice.
"We didn't have the spunk I was looking for. They know that I'm always trying to get them to go to another level," Charity said. "I told them after practice that they don't want to be one and done. Let's not do what we've done the last three years. Hopefully, we will pick it up (today) and be ready to go Wednesday."
Hawaii (15-13) split the regular-season series with Fresno State (17-12), losing at Fresno 75-69 in overtime and winning 79-65 at the Stan Sheriff Center.
The Bulldogs have won four of their last five games, including home victories over the top two seeds in the tournament, No. 1 Boise State and No. 2 Louisiana Tech.
FSU is led by All-WAC guards Chantella Perera (15.3 points and 5.0 rebounds a game) and Tierre Wilson (14.3, 6.3). One of them has been the leading scorer in 26 of the Bulldogs' 29 games.
Asked what her main concern was with Fresno State, Charity answered, "Perera. She is just a fantastic player who comes ready to play every single game and runs the team well."
The Wahine have a height advantage and that could increase if Grice is able to play.
The 6-foot-4 center did not practice yesterday while attending to a family emergency in Oklahoma. She was expected back today.
"We are not going to push Brittany (who is trying to recover from a lower left leg injury). The doctor in Idaho said it would be good if we can wait until Friday before she plays," Charity said. "I think we can do it, but some other people are going to have to step up. We have to do what Hawaii is capable of doing, execute the offense, box out and rebound and play some defense."
Iwona Zagrobelna, who scored 17 points and had 12 rebounds in the loss at Fresno, should see a lot of court time if Grice is not available. Zagrobelna will have to avoid getting into foul trouble, a problem that has limited her playing time recently.
Charity felt the players put the ball on the floor too much in last Saturday's loss to Boise State instead of relying on the passing game that carried UH to eight consecutive wins.
"We have to share the ball and take what teams give us." Charity said.
In other games, No. 8 seed San Jose State and No. 9 seed Idaho were scheduled to play today, with the winner facing Boise State tomorrow.
Also tomorrow, Louisiana Tech plays No. 7 New Mexico State and No. 3 Nevada takes on No. 6 Utah State.