Rainbow Wahine to skip shootaround and focus on Fresno


POSTED: Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Could an unorthodox pre-game decision shake up the Western Athletic Conference tournament?

There is little to lose and much to gain for the eighth-seeded Hawaii women's basketball team, which matches up with top-seeded Fresno State for the third time this season in the league quarterfinals today at 10 a.m.

UH coach Dana Takahara-Dias decided to eschew the 7 a.m. team shootaround at Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nev., and instead point her Rainbow Wahine (10-19) directly at the Bulldogs (25-5).

“;It would be difficult for us to wake the players up at 6 o'clock in the morning for a 7 a.m. shootaround,”; the first-year coach said yesterday from Reno. “;Which is only, by the way, 35 minutes.”;

“;We know we're in for quite a battle (today), but then again, we will have to be able to play our best basketball and expect to play the best basketball we have all year.”;

It will be the first time this season the Rainbow Wahine will miss that game-day session.

Team co-captain Dita Liepkalne said team energy was high following a 53-51 loss at Utah State last Saturday to wrap up the regular season. If the Wahine had beaten the Aggies, they would have avoided FSU in the first round. But there will be no trepidation for UH, which is at (relatively) full strength with the return of guard Leilani Galdones to the team from a weeklong suspension for team violations.

“;I think we're excited,”; Liepkalne said. “;We had a good practice yesterday, got some stuff done today. We're just excited to play Fresno.”;

FSU handed the Wahine their worst loss ever in WAC play, an 83-42 decision in Fresno, Calif., in January. UH came back with a much more competitive effort, a 78-69 loss on Feb. 6.

The rest of the WAC didn't fare much better, as the two-time defending champs rolled through league play at 16-0. They posted an average scoring margin of plus-12.8 points per game, best in the WAC, and are also tops in assists, steals, and 3-pointers made. Guard Jaleesa Ross, an All-WAC first-team selection, leads the Bulldogs at 17.6 ppg, second-best in the league.

“;You know, they're a very difficult team to match up with,”; Takahara-Dias said. “;They might not be as tall as us in the post, but all their players are exceptional shooters, ball-handlers, and passers. So matchups are going to be key for us as we enter the game, but the last time that we played them, we shot extremely well (46.3 percent).”;

Fresno knocked out the Wahine in the quarterfinals in two of the last three seasons. Liepkalne, the lone senior on the team, will be meeting FSU in the tournament for the third time.

“;I don't think it really has hit me yet that this is it,”; she said. “;But when I step on the court and realize this could be the last game, we're going to bring it all and bring the energy.

“;It's one-and-out, so we're just going to give it all.”;

Junior point guard Keisha Kanekoa leads the Wahine at 11.2 ppg.

Should the Wahine win, they'd face the winner of the Idaho-New Mexico State quarterfinal at 10 a.m. on Friday.