It was clear that when the Rainbow Wahine basketball team exited their locker room to take the court against an undefeated USC team Sunday night at the Stan Sheriff Center, they had something to prove.
Coming off a Purdue loss the night before, a game that Wahine head coach Laura Beeman admitted her team never really showed up to, the Wahine came out with flair against the Women of Troy, pushing USC for much of the first half.
But then one USC layup, followed by back-to-back turnovers, changed the course of the game.
“I don’t know if it fell flat or all of the sudden, we felt their (USC’s) intensity. We couldn’t even match it,” Beeman said postgame. “You always want to exceed it, but we couldn’t even match it. I think what they were feeling was the momentum shift and we didn’t do anything to stop the momentum and bring it back our way.”
The Wahine fell behind 46-32 at halftime, mostly due to self-inflicted turnovers.
Matching the intensity of USC is no easy task, especially coming off a loss just the night before. But when asked if the team was just tired from playing two games in two nights, Lahni Salanoa wasn’t making any excuses for herself, or her teammates.
“To be honest, it starts with our practice. We kind of had slow practices in the beginning of the week and coach (Beeman) was saying that our focus wasn’t there, which it wasn’t,” Salanoa said. “We just have to be more prepared and more focused during practice coming into games like this. But every time, every game day, I think everybody should just have that change of quick energy because it’s a game day - it’s not practice.”
Going into the game, the Wahine were aware of what USC brings to the table on offense and how momentum can shift quickly in their favor. But it’s one thing to just read about it in a scouting report, and another to face it on the court.
“Our energy went down and theirs went up,” Salanoa said. “They were getting hyped off their plays and one of our main keys that was on our scouting report with USC was that they’re emotional players, so they’ll get hyped off of everything they make, so we let them do that and let them get a big lead.”
Salanoa calls what happened in the second quarter of Sunday night’s game a lack of focus and energy. But Beeman wouldn’t go as far as to say that her team wasn’t giving enough effort; it was more of a case of how good USC was playing.
“When you gave a team that’s so long and so athletic and you’re like ‘Oh my gosh, they’re upping it. What do we do?’ And we just turned it over and they scored, and then we turn it over, then it gets you feeling just a little bit out of sync,” Beeman said. “I think we got a little bit ‘Oh shoot! Look how many points they scored so quickly. Can we come back from this?’ And I think that was the pause that they felt.”
While the loss was disappointing, Beeman was proud of the way her team showed some fight in the second half, even reducing the deficit to single digits at one stage.
“The great thing was we came out in third quarter and we didn’t fold out,” she said. “And we actually played pretty well. I don’t remember what the third quarter score was, but I think it was pretty even.”
The Wahine will look to snap their two-game losing streak against Montana State on Monday, December 4 at the Stan Sheriff Center. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. HT.
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