Battle-hardened Rainbow Wahine head into conference competition


POSTED: Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Their nonconference schedule was brutal in travel and opposition.

Now comes the fun part for the Hawaii women's basketball team and first-year coach Dana Takahara-Dias: Western Athletic Conference play.

UH endured such trials as a season-opening three-game swing through California, the loss of its best new player, Shawna Kuehu, to a season-ending knee injury, and blowout defeats of 46, 44, 37, and 30 points.

But the Rainbow Wahine (6-7) survived under their new coach, and are just two wins from matching the total of Jim Bolla's tumultuous final year.

“;We had a very tough nonconference schedule,”; Takahara-Dias said. “;I know it prepared us physically, and we're excited because mentally we'll be ready.”;

The Wahine, picked to finish eighth in the WAC in both preseason polls, open at Fresno State (9-5), the two-time WAC champion, at 5 p.m Hawaii time. From there, UH goes to Las Cruces to face New Mexico State on Saturday.

The Aggies (10-4) have won four straight, including a 61-60 upset of No. 24 Kansas last time out. Other teams are solid, too: Boise State (11-3) started the season 7-0; Louisiana Tech (9-3) is on a five-game winning streak; and Utah State (8-5) won its last four.





        » Who: Hawaii (6-7) at Fresno State (9-5)

        » When: Today, 5 p.m.

        » Where: Save Mart Center

        » TV: None

        » Radio: None

        » Live stats:

As long as the Wahine don't finish in last (ninth) place after 16 league games, they'll qualify for the WAC tournament in March. Nevada (6-8), San Jose State (4-9), and Idaho (2-11) will also try to avoid the basement.

UH enters conference play tied for last in scoring margin at minus 10.3 per game—and is underwhelming in many other stats—but there are positive signs. It proved it could win close battles with a two-game sweep of Kent State in the Waikiki Beach Marriott Invitational to close out 2009.

FSU swept UH in three games last season, including bouncing the Wahine in the WAC tournament quarterfinals 65-50, ending UH's season.

The Bulldogs have won 12 of the last 13 in the series. Jaleesa Ross, last year's tourney MVP, leads the Bulldogs with 16.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.

“;We know they're a running team, but we're getting our running game down now,”; sophomore forward Breanna Arbuckle said. “;We're working off each other on plays and getting to know each other very well.”;

Point guard Keisha Kanekoa leads UH with 10.5 points and three assists per game.