Rainbow Wahine will open WNIT First Round at Washington

Shawna-Lei Kuehu // Hawai'i Athletics
Shawna-Lei Kuehu // Hawai'i Athletics

HONOLULU—The University of Hawai’i women’s basketball team earned its eighth overall and second straight invitation into the Women’s National Invitational Tournament after posting a 17-13 overall record and a 10-6 mark in the Big West Conference. The Rainbow Wahine will travel to Seattle to take on the Washington Huskies (17-13, 10-9 Pac-12) on Friday, March 21 (start time to be determined yet).

Overall, this is the 13th time in Hawai’i history that the ‘Bows will play in the post-season. Hawai’i has played in the WNIT in 1983, ’92, 2000, ’01, ’02, ’03, and last year, 2013. UH has advanced to the NCAA tournament five times in 1989, ’90, ’94, 96, and ’98.

The Rainbow Wahine finished the conference season alone in third place behind Cal State Northridge and Cal Poly. Hawai’i earned a first round bye in the Big West Tournament last week as the No. 3 seed and then held off Long Beach State, 52-49  in a quarterfinal game on Thursday, March 12. But the ‘Bows fell to Cal Poly in the tourney’s semifinal game, 66-52 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. on Friday, March 14.

Hawai’i’s leading scorer and rebounder, senior forward Kamilah Jackson has been sidelined with an injury that has held her out of the last six regular season games and their tournament opener at Long Beach State. Jackson, a second team All-Big West selection, came off the bench briefly to face Cal Poly in the BWC tourney’s semifinal game, but did not score a point with one rebound in 18 minutes of action. Overall, Jackson is averaging 14.8 points and 9.3 rebounds a game.

Ashleigh Karaitiana and Shawna-Lei Kuehu are both averaging over 10 points a game. Karaitiana, the league’s Sixth Player of the Year, is averaging 10.5 points and 5.1 rebounds a game. She is the team leader with 38 3-pointers made in 97 attempts and third with 152 rebounds. Kuehu was voted to the Big West’s second-team along with Jackson. She is scoring 10.4 points with 4.2 boards a game. She leads UH with 31 steals and 23 blocked shots.

All games during the tournament are hosted by participating schools with first-round games opening March 19-21, followed by round two (March 22-25), round three (March 26-28), round four (March 29-31), semifinals (April 2-3), and championship (April 5 at 3 p.m. ET).  The championship game will be nationally televised live in HD on CBS Sports Network with Thad Anderson (play-by-play) and Ceal Barry (analyst) calling the action.

Conference USA leads the field with six teams selected, followed by five from the Big East, and four from the Atlantic 10, Big Ten, and Pac-12.  The American, MAC, SEC, and WCC each have three schools represented.  Other conferences in the field include: Big Sky (2), Big West (2), Ivy (2), Metro Atlantic (2), Patriot (2), Summit (2), ACC (1), America East (1), Atlantic Sun (1), Big 12 (1), Big South (1), Colonial (1), Horizon (1), MEAC (1), Missouri Valley (1), Mountain West (1), NEC (1), Ohio Valley (1), Southern (1), Southland (1), Sun Belt (1), SWAC (1), and WAC (1).

Game times will be announced by WNIT officials tomorrow (Tuesday, March 18).  The official website is www.womensnit.com and you can follow updates on Twitter at this handle @womensNIT.

The Selection Process
The WNIT committee selects 64 teams for its Postseason tournament.  The field consists of 32 automatic berths – one from each conference – and 32 at-large teams. The intention of the WNIT Selection Committee is to select the 32 best available at-large teams in the nation.

A team that is offered an automatic berth by the WNIT must meet these criteria: 1.) the highest-finishing team in its conference’s regular-season standings, and 2.) is not selected for the NCAA Tournament.  A team that fulfills these qualities will earn the WNIT automatic berth for its respective conference, regardless of overall record.

The remaining 32 berths in the Postseason WNIT were filled by the best teams available. All Division I teams are eligible for consideration. Any team considered for an at-large berth must have an overall record of .500 or better. Overall record includes conference tournament games.

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