RIVERSIDE, Calif.—The University of Hawai’i women’s basketball team fell in a heartbreaker at league-leader UC Riverside, 81-77 at the SRC Arena on Saturday night. It was a battle between the top two teams in the Big West, but the Highlanders held off the ‘Bows to remain undefeated in league play at 14-0 while improving to 21-7 overall. Hawai’i fell to 17-10 overall and 10-4 in conference.
The Rainbow Wahine came out firing on offense while holding the Highlanders at bay with solid defense as the ‘Bows led the entire first half. UH led UCR by as many as five points a couple of times in the first quarter, and ended the quarter leading UCR, 21-18. The ‘Bows continued their momentum into the second quarter leading by as many as nine points with 2:48 left in the first half. Hawai’i went into halftime holding a 42-35 lead. Destiny King paced the ‘Bows scoring 13 points in the first half while Kalei Adolpho pulled down seven rebounds.
The second half was a heavyweight battle with the lead see-sawing back and forth between the two squads. UH led the game until there was 4:23 left in the third quarter when UCR’s Brittany Crain hit a pair of free throws to knot the score at 50-50. From there, the lead changed seven times and the score was tied seven times down the stretch. Crain converted an old-fashioned three-point play to give the Highlanders a five point lead with 1:13 left. But back-to-back layups by UH’s Briana Harris brought the ‘Bows back to within one point at the end of the third quarter, 59-58.
The fourth quarter started with Adolpho scoring on a three-point play after getting fouled on a made layup which gave UH back the lead at 61-59. From there the two teams traded buckets, but UH built a four point lead afterSarah Toeaina sank a pair of free throws with 6:05 left in the game. UCR then went on a 7-to-0 run and they never looked back. Hawai’i kept things close but a series of turnovers cost the ‘Bows opportunities as the game came down to the wire.
Hawai’i outscored UC Riverside 38-to-18 in the paint and 29-to-3 in bench scoring. UH also out-rebounded UCR, 41-to-25. But the Highlanders had a 23-to-11 point advantage in scoring off turnovers. UH committed 19 miscues—including six in the fourth quarter alone, while UCR had just nine for the game.
King led Hawai’i with 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting with four rebounds, two assists and a steal. Adolpho recorded her third double-double of the season scoring 14 points with 11 rebounds. She was 5-of-10 from the floor and was 4-of-5 from the free throw line. Briana Harris and Megan Huff both added 13 points apiece.
With the win, the Highlanders clinched the Big West regular season title. The Rainbow Wahine are tied for second place with Long Beach State but have the tie-breaker over them having swept the 49ers this season.
Hawai’i closes the regular season with two home games next week. The Rainbow Wahine will take on UC Santa Barbara on Thursday, March 3. Saturday, March 5 will be Senior Night as Hawai’i honor six—Brianna Kennedy (who is a junior eligibility wise but will be graduating this spring), Connie Morris, Kalei Adolpho, Ashleigh Karaitiana,Destiny King, and Marissa Wimbley.