Hawaii's April Atuaia drove by Gonzaga's Ashley Burke yesterday in the first game of the Rainbow Wahine Classic.

Atuaia leads Wahine past
’Dogs; UConn next

By Al Chase

The Hawaii coaches were concerned prior to the Gonzaga game that the young Bulldogs were so similar to the Rainbow Wahine, they would prove troublesome.

The Bulldogs were just that except for an eight-minute span to start the second half when Hawaii built enough of a lead that resulted in a 71-61 victory in the opening round of the Hawaiian Airlines Rainbow Wahine Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Hawaii will play defending national champion Connecticut in a semifinal round match at 11 a.m. today. The other semifinal has national runner-up Oklahoma meeting North Carolina at 5:30 p.m.

In today's consolation games, DePaul plays Fordham at 1:10 p.m. followed by Denver vs. Gonzaga at 3:20 p.m.

"They are a well-disciplined team and kind of play like our own team," said UH shooting guard April Atuaia, who led Hawaii with 18 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

"It helped a lot when we ran through their plays in practice. There wasn't too much new which made it easier."

The first half was very close, with Hawaii holding a four-point lead at intermission, 38-34. The Wahine came out in the second half and played more aggressively on defense, which fueled a 20-7 run.

"If you can stop their transition game, they will go into a half-court game and be patient," said UH coach Vince Goo. "If you don't, they will come down and fire away.

"The first eight minutes of the second half were exactly the way we wanted to play. We were able to set the tempo. We boxed out and we limited their opportunities. I thought we were taking good shots and shooting pretty good."

Amy Sanders had five points and Christen Roper, Natasja Allen and Jade Abele four each during the spurt.

The 15-point bulge with 6:11 to play was the biggest of the night for the Wahine (3-0). They needed most of it as Gonzaga twice cut the deficit to seven points and UH struggled at times with the press Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves put on with five minutes to go.

"I didn't go to the press earlier because we don't have a lot of depth and I didn't know it would be that effective," said Graves.

"I think the difference was the inside game. We thought the action of our inside people was similar to UH, but their kids are older, bigger and stronger. We had skinny freshmen trying to defend Roper and Allen.

"Then, when our shots stopped going down, we didn't have anyone who could drive and draw fouls. I'm glad we only had nine turnovers, but the bottom line is they played better than us."

Goo said he didn't expect the Gonzaga post people to shoot so well from outside and noted the Bulldogs hit some really big 3-pointers toward the end.

"We did not think they were the weak link in this tournament by far," said Goo, who had his team practicing and getting ready for the Huskies at six yesterday morning.

No. 11 North Carolina 82, DePaul 66: The Tar Heels broke open a two-point game by going on an 18-6 run over the final 5:16 of the first half to take a 51-37 advantage into the dressing room.

The Blue Demons (1-1) took an early lead by hitting three of their first four shots from beyond the arc and remained close until they cooled down from the field, missing five of their last six attempts. The Tar Heels (3-0) closed out the half by making 5 of 7 from the field.

"We knew they averaged 30 3-pointers a game, We knew who was going to shoot the 3s, but we had to tighten up our defense," said UNC coach Sylvia Hatchel, who already has told Goo the Tar Heels want to come back in 2006.

DePaul made just 3 of 24 3-point attempts after the early run.

UNC had five players in double figures, led by Coretta Brown's 14 points. La'Tangela Anderson scored 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, the second double-double in three games for the 6-1 freshman, the Atlantic Coast Conference preseason rookie of the year.

Center Jamie Smith paced DePaul with 16 points and nine rebounds.

No. 23 Oklahoma 90, Fordham 62: The Sooners jumped to a 41-24 halftime lead behind the play of junior guard Maria Villarroel, who was 7 of 11 from the floor, scored 16 points, had four rebounds and OU's only blocked shot before intermission. She finished with 30 points.

"Maria was terrific in transition. She has an uncanny ability to accelerate. When she slips out no one is ever going to catch here," said OU coach Sherri Coale.

Dionnah Jackson had 14 points for the Sooners (4-1), while Caitlin Chiaramonte led the Rams (2-1) with 12 points.

This was the Sooners' first game since what Coale called "Black Tuesday" -- when senior Caton Hill and freshman Erin Higgins were lost for the season with ACL injuries three days ago.

"I thought everybody who played contributed in some way. We talked for the last 48 hours and all we talked about was that no one had to suddenly become superhuman, but everyone had to present just a little better version of themselves," said Coale. "I'm very pleased with the way we played today. I think everyone showed their character and will continue to show it."

No. 5 Connecticut 85, Denver 29: The Huskies (3-0) did not play well in the first half, but still held the Pioneers (0-3) to 7 percent (2-for-29) shooting from the field in building a 37-11 lead.

The Huskies scored from the perimeter, on basic give-and-go plays down the lane or with players running the baseline, from the corner, you name it.

Diana Taurasi topped UConn with 16 points. Barbara Turner and Nicole Wolff each had 12 as 10 of the 11 Huskies scored.

Ragan Neblett and Amber Johnson shared honors for Denver with six points apiece.

UH Athletics

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