Wahine picking up defensive intensityBy Al Chase
Play a smothering defense and enjoy the fruits on offense.
For the third consecutive game, the University of Hawaii women's basketball team rolled over a Western Athletic Conference Pacific Division opponent and the fuel was the stifling matchup man-to-man defense employed by the Wahine.
The only difference in Saturday night's 88-38 blowout of the San Diego State Aztecs at the Special Events Arena was the Wahine did not experience a slow start as was the case against San Jose State and Fresno State.
The 50-point victory witnessed by 1,782 fans, including UH president Kenneth Mortimer and his wife, equaled the most resounding win (vs. San Jose State, 95-45, March 6, 1994) fashioned by the Wahine in the Vince Goo era.
"I think we just had to step it up on defense. That was our main theme tonight," said Raylene Howard, who led UH with 21 points.
"We really wanted to go out there and play hard on defense, get the ball and we knew we could run. We knew if our post players posted up strong we could just feed the ball in and get layups."
The Wahine did just that over and over again. Of 16 field goals in the first half, seven were layups and six more buckets came from close range in the paint.
The outcome was decided by halftime as UH put together a 25-5 run, starting with 13:18 left before intermission, for a 35-11 lead.
So dominating were the Wahine (12-1 overall, 3-0 conference) on defense, that the Aztecs (5-7, 1-2) did not break into double figures until there were three minutes left in the half. Nothing changed in the second half as it took a little over eight minutes for SDSU to score its 20th point.
By then the Wahine had 65.
"We're a very young team that just got over the flu, but that's not an excuse," SDSU head coach Barb Smith said. "We didn't come out ready to play. You do that against a good team like Hawaii and they take advantage of it."
Credit Goo's staff for diligently analyzing opponent's game tapes. George Wolfe does the post players, Da Houl the guards and Serenda Valdez the wings (forwards).
"Each opposing player has strengths and weaknesses and we try to take away the strength from every one of them," Goo said. "Our players went out there and when No. 44 (Shaneya Harris) had the ball they knew how to play her and when their post player, No. 31 (Alyssa Fredrick) had the ball, they knew how to play her."
For the first time this year, the Wahine applied pressure on the opposing point guard full court. BJ Itoman and Maj Forsberg picked up SDSU's Charley Murray as soon as she received the inbounds pass.
"She kind of had a weak left hand. We wanted to ride her and make her keep it on the left side," Itoman said. "We wanted to make her work a little to bring the ball up."
Nani Cockett followed Howard with 17 points. Kylie Page, Brandi Ashby and Forsberg all scored 12.
Page also pulled down 14 rebounds to help the Wahine enjoy their biggest rebounding advantage of the season, 46-28.
Forsberg, a 5-foot-4 junior point guard from Horsholm, Denmark, was 6-of-7 from the field in 14 minutes of action, easily topping her previous career high (4 points).
"It was my best game, so far," Forsberg said. "I just decided I was going to take the shots if I got a good look."
Did Goo expect such an easy game against the defending WAC champion?
"No," he said, but in summation, "When your defense rolls, your offense rolls."
TRAVEL PLANS: The Wahine leave tomorrow morning on their first road trip to play Southern Methodist in Dallas Thursday and Texas Christian in Fort Worth, Texas Saturday.