Wahine look for wins on the road
While the Hawaii women's basketball team has proven it can close out segments of its Western Athletic Conference schedule effectively, the Rainbow Wahine have yet to start a new road or home chapter on the right note.
Coach Jim Bolla hopes that changes tomorrow when sixth-place Hawaii (8-11, 2-4 WAC) takes on fourth-place New Mexico State (14-5, 4-2) in the start of the team's third conference road trip of the season.
Traveling to meet the Aggies (tip-off at 4 p.m. Hawaii time) and then Louisiana Tech on Saturday also presents the most daunting travel itinerary of the year.
"This one's a long one," Bolla acknowledged in a phone call from Las Cruces, N.M. "It's not an easy travel trip, just because of location -- we're going to be pretty tired afterward. It's going to be tough, but that's just the way it is ... for everybody making this swing. It's not that we're in a significant disadvantage more so than any other team in the conference."
On Monday night, the Wahine flew to El Paso, Texas, via Houston. They arrived in Las Cruces on a bus at noon yesterday. They got in a light workout and planned for a film session and normal practice today.
Taking a game off the Aggies at the Pan American Center will be a tall task -- they're 3-0 at home in WAC play and 10-1 overall. Things don't get any easier as the trip progresses either -- the Wahine backtrack to Houston, fly to Shreveport, La., and drive to Ruston to close out the trip.
On the bright side, Hawaii should have some additional firepower at hand. It got a boost in the return of guard Amy Kotani to practice in her first action since missing the previous two games of the schedule with an injured ankle. Bolla said the Moanalua graduate could see significant time once again.
Leilani Galdones started against Boise State and Idaho in her stead, while Keisha Kanekoa, a starter the first 15 games of the year, came off the bench to play well in both games.
"Right now we've got a pretty good rotation," Bolla said. "Amy will dress for the game, but we'll still probably go with Leilani to start and make adjustments from there."
He wants to build off the success the team had taking care of the ball -- against Idaho, the Wahine tied a season-low 18 turnovers -- and capitalize on the play of WAC Player of the Week Tanya Smith, who grabbed 42 rebounds over the two-game homestand and set a career high of 25 boards against the Vandals, one off the school record.
There are some other facets of the offense that Bolla wants to eliminate.
In its halfcourt sets, the team has gotten into a habit of dribbling once or twice before forcing a tough pass under pressure, which often leads to a turnover going the other direction for a fast break if an athletic team like the Aggies gets a hand on the ball.
Bolla wants to take the extra dribbling out of the equation while still maintaining an up-tempo style of play.
"If we don't use that one dribble and we pass that ball, the defense is a full step behind and we could get an easy opportunity," he said.