Wahine survive Cal Poly to set up Big Bash vs. UCSB

UH Athletics

HONOLULU — Showing the poise of an experienced team with a championship pedigree, the Hawaii women’s basketball team remained in first place by keeping its cool.

Junior MeiLani McBee scored 12 of her game-high 21 points in the fourth quarter and the Rainbow Wahine closed the game on an 18-6 run to turn back a frustrated Cal Poly team 59-47 on Thursday night at SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center.


McBee scored 12 straight points after the game was tied at 41-all and a technical foul on the Mustangs allowed Hawaii (14-9, 11-3 Big West ) to score eight points in a 50-second span in the final four minutes to take back sole possession of first place in the conference before a crowd of 931.

“There’s a difference with playing with emotions and playing emotional, ” Hawaii coach Laura Beeman said. “I think we played with great emotion today but did not get emotional.”

Hawaii remained perfect at home in conference play at 7-0 heading into Saturday’s game against UC Santa Barbara billed as “Beeman’s Big Bash.”

The Gauchos remained a game behind the Rainbow Wahine in the standings with a win over UC San Diego on Thursday.

Imani Perez added five points, 10 rebounds and four blocks and helped hold reigning Big West Player of the Week Natalia Ackerman to four points and six rebounds on 2-for-7 shooting.

“As the season has gone on, she has become more physical, ” Beeman said of Perez. “I think even more than she thought she wanted to be. I think she’s stronger, she gets off the ground fast and she can elevate and have her hands on the ball.”

The game was tied 41-41 with 5 :40 remaining when McBee made a 3-pointer from the left wing and then converted an and-1 reverse layup to put UH ahead by six.

After a 3-pointer by Annika Shah cut Hawaii’s lead in half, Cal Poly’s Sydney Bourbond was whistled for her fourth foul and then called for a technical foul to end her night. McBee converted all four free throws and then added a layup to push UH’s lead to nine. Kelsie Imai followed with a spinning layup to put UH ahead by double figures.

“That poise was very important because it cost (Cal Poly ) seven points, ” McBee said.

Shah finished with a team-high 14 points for the Mustangs (13-10, 9-5 ), who have lost six straight to UH.

Neither team led by more than seven points in a tightly contested first half in which UH held the Mustangs to 32 % shooting (8-for-25 ).

Jacque David capped a 7-0 UH run late in the second quarter with a layup as UH enjoyed a 14-8 advantage in points in the paint.

Shah, the Mustangs’ leading scorer, ended Cal Poly’s 1-for-11 funk from the field with a 3-pointer with 14 seconds left in the second quarter.

Hawaii quickly pushed the ball down the floor and Lily Wahinekapu sunk a fall-away jumper from the right side to give UH a 28-22 halftime advantage.

Cal Poly cut the deficit in half heading into the fourth quarter, closing with four points in the final 43 seconds.

“I thought we played a little frustrated for the first three-and-a-half quarters and I don’t know why, ” Beeman said. “I thought we had a really good timeout where a few of the players really took over and talked about the adjustments we needed to make, talked about our energy and talked about why we were playing so frustrated.”

Sidney Richards ended a five-minute Cal Poly scoring drought with a layup in the paint and Sierra Lichtie sunk two free throws in the final two seconds after Daejah Phillips had a bucket taken away due to a questionable offensive foul that could have made it an eight-point UH lead.

Richards made two free throws with 8 :30 remaining to give Cal Poly its first lead since it scored the first basket of the game.

Wahinekapu answered with a three-point play at the other end to put UH back in front and it never trailed again.

McBee’s second 3 pushed her past Julissa Tago into fourth place on UH’s career 3s made list with 141.

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