Wahine backcourt suffers another loss entering WAC homestand


POSTED: Wednesday, January 13, 2010

And another one gone, and another one gone, another one bites the dust.

Queen's classic is quickly becoming the theme song of the 2009-10 Hawaii women's basketball season. The depleted Rainbow Wahine (6-9, 0-2 Western Athletic Conference) learned their backup point guard, junior walk-on Mai Ayabe, is out for the season with a torn ACL — the team's second such injury following one to freshman Shawna Kuehu in the fall.

Combined with other factors, only 10 players will suit up against Idaho in UH's WAC home opener at the Stan Sheriff Center today at 7 p.m.

“;We're down to two point guards (Keisha Kanekoa and Leilani Galdones), but that's not even the extent of our loss with Mai,”; coach Dana Takahara-Dias said. “;She brings a fullcourt game. We're gonna miss out on the opportunity to press hard 94 feet; the speed and quickness to really change the contour of the game. Her defensive prowess will be missed, that's for sure.”;

This time, at least, the loss of another player comes with some good news. Senior guard Megan Tinnin is back with the team after spending the fall semester with family in New Mexico for personal reasons. She will redshirt this season, but adds some valuable experience to the scout team in practice, and will play her final season in 2010-11.

“;It's fun because I came back feeling a part of the team,”; said Tinnin, who set team records in 3-pointers made and attempted each of the past two seasons (50-for-152 as a sophomore, 55-for-176 as a junior). “;You know when you leave and come back, sometimes it's hard to feel that. It's a good feeling. It's good to be back.”;

Ayabe went down in the final minute of Hawaii's 73-51 loss at New Mexico State last Saturday. She averaged 2.8 points in 10.7 minutes in coming off the bench in all 15 UH games so far this season. The native of Japan was coming into her own, with a 10-point, three-assist game against Kent State on Dec. 30.

More importantly, she spelled Kanekoa for stretches and was UH's secondary ballhandler, especially against fullcourt pressure. Another point guard, Jennifer Hamilton, was granted a transfer off the team in the fall.

Thus, it falls almost completely on Kanekoa to take care of the ball, with off-guard Galdones there to help.

“;It's a big loss for us,”; Kanekoa said. “;(I have to avoid) foul trouble. Not turn over the ball as much. Just playing smarter, and looking to run the point more.”;

Spirits were high at yesterday's practice, even after UH was eviscerated in back-to-back road losses at Fresno State and NMSU last week.

Every WAC win is crucial to stay out of last place and avoid missing the WAC tournament. Idaho (2-12, 0-1) figures to be a team the Wahine must beat to better their chances. Utah State and Nevada — the next opponents on the three-game homestand on Saturday and Monday, respectively — should offer stiffer tests as two of four WAC teams off to a 2-0 start.

It's a homecoming of sorts for Idaho, coached by Jon Newlee and assistant Gavin Petersen — two former UH assistants. A second assistant, Christa (Brossman) Sanford, played at UH for two years. Punahou graduate Shaena-Lyn Kuehu, twin sister of UH's Kuehu, is a sophomore averaging 11.1 points per game for the Vandals. And UI freshmen Natasha Helsham (Aiea) and Kanisha Bello (Waiakea) are valuable reserves.