RIVERSIDE, Calif.-The University of Hawai'i women's basketball team held off UC Riverside for a thrilling, 72-69 win at the SRC Arena in Riverside, Calif. The Rainbow Wahine kept its eight-game win streak alive and held on to first place in the Big West with an 8-2 conference record. UH's twin towers-Megan Huff and Connie Morris-led UH with 12 points apiece. Briana Harris came off the bench to score 11 points-including three key 3-pointers all in the second half to help lift the 'Bows to the win. The win marked head coach Laura Beeman's 50th victory with the Rainbow Wahine.
Beeman now has a 50-35 record with the Rainbow Wahine in just her third season at Hawai'i. Prior to UH, she recorded a 390-110 as the head coach at Mt. San Antonio Junior College. The eight game win streak is the longest under Beeman and the longest since the 2006-07 season when former head coach Jim Bolla led UH to eight straight during the Western Athletic Conference season.
Hawai'i remains atop the Big West with sole possession of first place at 8-2. It is the best conference start for UH since the 2000-01 Rainbow Wahine started their Western Athletic Conference season with a 10-2 record. Long Beach State overwhelmed UC Santa Barbara, 68-38 tonight to improve to 7-3 in conference and UC Davis knocked off Cal State Fullerton on the road in overtime, 74-67 to keep pace with the 49ers at 7-3 for second place. UCR falls into third place with the loss to UH at 6-4 along with Cal Poly who fell at home to CSUN, 70-58.
In the first half, both teams traded baskets early on. There were 10 ties and 10 lead changes in the first half alone. But with 9:52 left in the half, UH went on a 7-to-0 run to go up by five points, 26-21 with 7:00 left. But UCR came charging back on a 7-to-0 run of their own to take a two point lead with 3:38 left. The Highlanders went into the break with a 34-31 lead.
The second half remained tight through the first eight minutes, but then Harris and Karaitiana sank back-to-back treys and Shawna-Lei Kuehu hit a layup to give UH a 56-49 lead with 9:16 left in the game. Hawai'i would hold on to that lead for the rest of the game, going up by as many as eight points three different times, the last with 2:27 left on the clock. But UC Riverside would keep fighting and chipped away their deficit on a 7-to-0 run to close within one point, 70-69 with 1:03 left. But Kuehu would seal the win by calmly hitting two free throws with 11-seconds left in the game to give UH a 72-69 lead. UCR missed a 3-point effort with three seconds left, but Huff grabbed the rebound to preserve the win.
Huff scored 10 of her 12 points in the first half. She shot 6-for-8 from the floor and pulled down five rebounds. Morris was 6-of-9 in field goals and tied her career-high with seven rebounds. She also had an assist and a blocked shot. Harris had three rebounds to go with her 11 points and she tied her career-high with five assists. Ashleigh Karaitiana chipped in with 10 points with six boards and four assists.
Hawai`i out-rebounded UCR, 47-to-25 and outscored UCR, 36-to-18 in the paint. UH's reserves out-scored their counterparts, 32-to-0.
UC Riverside fell to 15-9 and 6-4 in conference. The Highlanders were led by Simone DeCoud's 22 points. Michelle Curry added 17 points, Brittany Crain scored 16 and Annelise Ito added 10 points.