HPU women put prowess on display in runaway

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald UH-Hilo's Mandi Kawaha passes to teammate Kim Schmelz on Saturday.

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald UH-Hilo’s Mandi Kawaha did an admirable job guarding Amy Baum (four points, eight assists, eight rebounds), and the junior finished with15 points.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald UH-Hilo's Jenna Waki dribbles the ball through Hawaii Pacific defense Saturday.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald UH-Hilo's Jenna Waki runs through her teammates Saturday while being introduced before the first game at Vulcan Gym against Hawaii Pacific.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald UH-Hilo's Bree Olson passes the ball to a teammate Saturday while falling over Hawaii Pacific's Olivia West, left, and Makenna Gambee.

Did anyone get the license plate number of that bus?

The UH-Hilo women’s basketball team got run over by No. 4 Hawaii Pacific 69-46 on Saturday, falling to the perennial powerhouse that has won 27 straight games dating to last season.

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The Sharks (2-0) need just 10 more victories to become the first PacWest team to reach 200 conference wins since the league was reformed in 2006.

The Vulcans (0-1) are now 1-23 all-time against HPU, which features junior guard Amy Baum, the returning PacWest player of the year.

The two teams will play again at noon at UHH Gym where no fans are allowed in the new age of coronavirus hoops.

Baum, a 5-foot-7 guard from Australia, scored just four points on 1 of 3 shooting and was scoreless in the first half. Mandi Kawaha, UHH’s best defender, guarded her. But you can’t stop Baum. You can only hope to contain her.

Baum still finished with eight assists and eight rebounds and had just two turnovers.

Kawaha scored 15 points on 6 of 11 shooting. She was too quick off the dribble for the HPU defense, which guarded her in man defense and threw different defenders against her.

What impressed UHH coach David Kaneshiro the most was his team’s hard work especially in the first half, when the Vuls trailed 32-22.

“I was really happy with the effort and toughness,” he said. “We had a little bit of lapse in the third quarter (23-13), and we picked it up in the fourth quarter (14-11). In the first regular-season game, we were good defensively. Our errors were a lack of execution, not a lack of trying.”

The Sharks brought just seven players but still held the edge in all the key scoring categories: points off turnovers (15-8), in the paint (22-16), second-chance points (10-2), and bench points (19-10).

What makes Baum so dangerous?

She’s a true triple threat. Last season, she averaged 12.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, and a conference-leading 6.0 assists per game.

The Sharks return two others who join Baum on the preseason All-PacWest team in Ally Bates and Alysha Marcucci. They scored 15 and 12 points, respectively.

One thing was obvious between the two teams, who play five more times: HPU is far more talented.

That’s expected for a team that relies on its long tradition of winning to recruit the next batch of blue-chip talent. The Sharks have qualified for the NCAA tournament five times in the last six seasons: 2015, ’17, ’18, 19, and ’20.

Over that span, HPU has landed six players on the All-PacWest team, including two who were named POY. UHH has had one, the departed Allie Navarette, who’s lighting it up at Metro State in Denver.

Another obvious point: Talent helps more than anything else, especially then it’s a collection of standout players, a reason coach Reid Takatsuka, who enters his 10th season, is 192-62 (.756) and is closing in on former UH Wahine coach Vince Goo’s record 334-16, 17 years as the state’s all-time record as the winningest women’s coach.

Can the Vulcans ever beat the Sharks?

Of course, upsets happen, even to the greatest teams. In 2013, Louisville upset defending national champion Baylor 82-81 in the NCAA tournament. The Bears were led by Brittney Griner, one of the all-time greats.

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The Vuls first need to stop beating themselves – tey had 17 turnovers and learn to play defense without fouling; HPU went 17 of 23 from the free-throw line.

If not, get out of the way when Baum is driving the bus.

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