Star-Bulletin Sports


Hawaii's Kim Willoughby blocked a Boise State shot in last weekend's win. The third-seeded Wahine take on No. 6 seed Nevada tomorrow in the WAC tournament at Tulsa, Okla.

Rainbows set sights
on Wolf Pack

The UH women open the WAC
tournament against Nevada
tomorrow in Tulsa

By Grace Wen

Hawaii is trying not to look ahead, but it can't help but be conscious of what is at stake in the Western Athletic Conference women's basketball tournament.

The third-seeded Rainbow Wahine tip off against sixth-seeded Nevada (9-18, 6-12) in the quarterfinals tomorrow at 8 a.m. Hawaii time. Should the Wahine win, they would face either Rice or the winner of today's noon play-in game between SMU and UTEP.

Unlike last year when winning the tournament meant getting the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, the addition of Louisiana Tech has changed Hawaii's approach to the week-long event.

The Rainbow Wahine (21-6, 14-4) just hope to reach the championship game. A strong tournament performance might help the Wahine sway the NCAA selection committee Sunday.

"The implications of the tournament are huge," Hawaii coach Vince Goo said. "(Our RPI) is good, but not safe. Obviously we need to win our game against Nevada and we need to play against Rice. Hopefully they win their first-round game. We need to beat an RPI-40 team for our strength."

Hawaii arrived yesterday in Tulsa, Okla., and practiced for 75 minutes at a high school outside of city.

"We're definitely ready," Chelsea Wagner said. "We're planning on doing a great job and getting to the championship game. That's definitely what our goal is."

Conference winner Louisiana Tech is the clear favorite to win the tournament. The ninth-ranked Lady Techsters won their first WAC title and claimed their 10th-straight conference title after winning nine consecutive Sun Belt crowns.

They face the winner of the play-in game between ninth-seeded Fresno State and eighth-seeded Boise State. Tech should take care of its half of the bracket, but it could be seriously challenged by Tulsa in the semifinal.

"If we play well, we really should win," Lady Techsters coach Leon Barmore said. "We did stumble at Rice. We missed 17 free throws. We did have a close game at Tulsa.

"I'm concerned, but I think if we play well, we do have the best team. I'm not saying we'll win it. If we play up to our abilities, we'll win it."

Barmore is cautioning his team for the tournament after Rice's upset.

"By us getting beat at Rice, and Tulsa playing us close the last game, I'm sure it's given a lot of the teams (the idea) that 'Hey, they're not invincible.' " Barmore said. "But that's OK. It's probably good for us because we know we have to work it if we're going to win."

Senior Janka Gabrielova knows Hawaii needs a team effort to reach Saturday's final. The point guard is the only returning starter for the Wahine in the tournament.

"The whole team has to play well," Gabrielova said. "Not only one individual, not only two, all of us. The whole five and the bench players. Everybody has to come and play well. There's no time for 'I'm tired of this and that.' Everyone has to play strong and hard."

The focus in the quarterfinals will be on stopping Nevada's Kate Smith. The 6-foot-4 center was the only repeat selection to the all-conference first team.

Smith was held below her season scoring average the last time the two teams met in Reno but is averaging 15.2 points per game. The Wolf Pack don't have much momentum coming into the tournament, having lost their last four and finishing in a tie for sixth place in the conference.

In spite of all that, Gabrielova isn't looking beyond tomorrow's game.

"We played them a week ago and we did a pretty good job," Gabrielova said. "We can't underestimate them. We have to play well and be very prepared. We don't worry about the second game or the championship right now. We have to win the first one."

Added Goo: "To beat a team three times is tough. They're probably a little bit more motivated than a team that won twice. Hopefully, we play well in that first game and we'll be able to match up with Rice in the semifinal."

The Wahine would love the opportunity to eliminate the Owls from the tournament. Rice stole a victory in Honolulu in January. Lindsey Maynard's basket with 1.6 seconds left did more than clinch a single victory for Rice.

The win started a monumental momentum shift. Rice won its last four conference games, including an upset of then-sixth-ranked Louisiana Tech. With a record of 20-7, the Owls have the most regular-season wins in school history. Rice is the biggest obstacle in Hawaii's path to the tournament final.

Barmore gives a slight edge to the Owls.

"They've been playing well and they beat Hawaii the last time and they beat us, so their confidence level has probably improved a great deal," Barmore said. "It's a toss-up though, because Hawaii's not bad."

The Wahine hope the NCAA notices, too. The selection committee gave the WAC two berths in 1999 and 2000. But only former conference member Texas Christian went to the big dance last year.

Note: Senior Karena Greeny did not practice yesterday. Greeny had a large blister on the pinkie toe of her left foot that had to be drained.


WAC tournament

When: Tomorrow, noon
Where: Donald W. Reynolds Center, Tulsa, Okla.
TV: None
Radio: Live, KCCN 1420-AM


Hawaii time

Today, first round

SMU vs. UTEP, 8 a.m.

Boise St. vs. Fresno St., 10:30 a.m.
Tomorrow, Quarterfinals
Hawaii vs. Nevada, 8 a.m.
Rice vs. SMU/UTEP, 10:30 a.m.
La. Tech vs. Boise St./Fresno St., 2 p.m.
San Jose St. vs. Tulsa, 4:30 p.m.
Friday, Semifinals
Hawaii/Nevada vs. Rice/SMU/UTEP, 8 a.m.
La. Tech/Boise St./Fresno St. vs. San Jose St./Tulsa, 10:30 a.m.
Saturday, Final
Semifinal winners, 9 a.m.
Hawaii (21-6, 14-4 WAC)

Ht. Pts. Reb. Ast.

G Janka Gabrielova (Sr.) 5-6 10.1 3.3 4.6

G Chelsea Wagner (So.) 5-10 8.3 2.9 1.1

F Natasja Allen (Jr.) 6-2 11.6 6.0 1.1

F Karena Greeny (Sr.) 5-11 9.3 6.1 1.8

C Christen Roper (Jr.) 6-5 9.7 7.4 0.6

Nevada (9-18, 6-12)

Ht. Pts. Reb. Ast.

G Laura Ingham (Jr.) 5-4 6.7 4.7 6.4

G Ashley Bastian (Jr.) 5-6 8.7 2.0 1.8

G Crystal Williams (Sr.) 5-8 5.8 3.9 1.3

F Katie Golomb (Sr.) 6-1 11.1 5.5 1.0

C Kate Smith (Jr.) 6-2 15.2 6.9 1.9

Notes: Hawaii is 5-5 all-time in five WAC tourney appearances. The Rainbow Wahine reached the championship for the first time last year but lost 66-58 to Texas Christian. Boise State and Louisiana Tech are first year participants in this year's tournament. ... The Wahine lead the series against Nevada 15-2. Hawaii won both conference meetings this year. The Wahine defeated the Wolf Pack 59-51 a week ago at Lawlor Events Center and ruined the Senior Night of Katie Golomb, Crystal Williams, and Sarah Estrada. The Wahine are 7-2 in road games this year. ... Hawaii led the conference in shooting from beyond the arc with a .365 percentage (134 of 367). Wahine forward Karena Greeny topped the conference in 3-point field goal percentage (.450, 27 of 60). ... Christen Roper is ninth in the nation in blocked shots, averaging 2.52 per game. ... The Wahine also led the league in defensive rebounds, averaging 30.7 a game. ... Hawaii ranks 45th by and 40th by Collegiate Basketball News in its latest RPI ratings.

UH Athletics

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