Wahine looking to avoid WAC tourney play-in game
Just one win in the Gem State.
That's all the Hawaii women's basketball team needs to avoid the Western Athletic Conference tournament play-in game.
With four games remaining on the schedule, a finish as high as fifth is still within reach as seventh-place Hawaii (10-15, 4-8 WAC) goes for a second straight win today at Idaho.
The Rainbow Wahine's first -- and possibly best -- opportunity to clinch one of the WAC's top seven seeds comes against the woeful Vandals (2-23, 1-12 WAC) at the Kibbie Dome, in the first of two games on the Wahine's final regular-season road trip. A Hawaii win would eliminate any and all tiebreaker scenarios with Idaho.
Tip-off is at 5 p.m. Hawaii time.
Idaho and San Jose State are tied for last with four games left for each, but Hawaii already owns the tiebreaker against the Spartans. Coach Jim Bolla is looking up, not down, and figures if the Wahine take care of business on their end, the rest will sort itself out.
"We want to just win and do the best job that we can," he said from Moscow, Idaho. "No one wants to be in a play-in game. It's just not a good situation. You gotta play in, then you turn around and you gotta play the No. 1 team."
Saturday's road finale at first-place Boise State (19-6, 11-2 WAC) will provide a much tougher test against one of three WAC teams that hasn't dropped a conference game at home all season. The Broncos are 11-0 overall at Taco Bell Arena.
"We don't have the luxury of saying that they're last place or first place -- we're playing to try to get ourselves in position for the WAC tournament," Bolla said. "All our games are important, whether it's Idaho in last or Boise who's in first."
Once they return home, Hawaii faces two capable foes, Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State, at the Stan Sheriff Center next week before heading off to Las Cruces, N.M., for the WAC tournament.
"We've got one team behind us and three teams in front of us, so we can help ourselves and not worry about someone else helping us out," Bolla said.
Hawaii defeated Idaho handily, 68-53 at home last month but succumbed to Boise State 77-73 in a heartbreaker.
The Wahine are settled into Moscow and have gotten two practices under their belts. But they are without Iwona Zagrobelna on the trip after the center injured a knee in Hawaii's 61-47 win over San Jose State last week.
Zagrobelna's size (6-foot-4) will be missed, as will her usual contributions of 8.4 points and 4.4 rebounds off the bench. She put up 15 points against the Vandals in January, and her absence sets up a 10-person rotation with forward Dita Liepkalne still tentative after returning from a knee injury of her own.
Tara Hittle is locked in as a starting forward alongside Tanya Smith. Saundra Cariaga and Megan Tinnin will be counted on for their usual contributions from the wings. Amy Kotani has started four straight games at the point, with Keisha Kanekoa supplying relief off the bench in 10 consecutive contests.
"We've beaten Idaho, but we can't rest on that," Bolla said. "They're a different team now, we're a different team. So we gotta get that one first, and then Boise.
"If we can go in and play like we did at home, we just want to be in position at the end of the game to get a win."