The UH-Hilo women’s basketball team played tough, and everything was in place for an upset against No. 4 Hawaii Pacific on Sunday.
The Sharks (3-0) woke up with a bad case of the shooting blues, and Amy Baum, the conference’s best player, was saddled with foul trouble and scored just seven points.
The Vulcans (0-2) played without Mandi Kawaha, their best player, who went down with a leg injury in the second quarter and didn’t return.
UHH led 39-35 in the third quarter when Bree Olson drilled a 3-pointer.
Upset in the making?
The Sharks exploited UHH’s weakness, the ability to play sticky defense without fouling, and stormed to a 69-56 win in a PacWest pod game at the UHH Gym.
HPU made 26 of 34 free throws, and Baum converted 4 of 4 to tie it 39-39 in the third quarter.
Olson answered with a layup, but Ally Bates stuck a dagger with consecutive 3-pointers OVERSET FOLLOWS:for a 45-41 lead with 1:29 left in the third period, and HPU never looked back.
Despite going 0 of 6 from the field, Baum made 7 of 8 free throws and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Sharks, who shot 36.7% from the field.
Olivia West attacked the rim and scored 30 points on 10-of-15 shooting, and Ally Bates added 23 points. The two guards hit three 3-pointers each.
HPU outscored UHH on fastbreak points, 16-0, so the Vuls needed others to step up with Kawaha out.
Kim Schmelz scored 27 points on 11-of-19 shooting, and Olson came off the bench to add 17 points on 5-of-8 shooting for the Vulcans, who shot 32.8% from the floor.
The Sharks closed strong; in the fourth quarter they outscored UHH 22-13. The Vuls made just 4 of 15 in the final period.
“We played really hard,” UHH coach David Kaneshiro said. “We executed a little bit better. Our flow was better.
“It was a group effort. We were down six at halftime (32-26) and took the lead in the third quarter.”
Without Kawaha, the Vuls didn’t have anyone capable of stopping West, who kept dribbling right to the rim for easy layups. When the defense did stop her, West tagged fouls on the defense and made 7 of 9 free throws.
Meanwhile, Schmelz had her game going. She hit elbow jumpers, turnaround shots and drilled 3 of 7 from beyond the arc. Olson played 21 minutes and sank 2 of 4 from long distance.
Kawaha played 16 minutes in the first half and shot 0 of 6 from the field. The Sharks did a better job defending her rim attacks and collapsed when she got into the lane.
Early in the first half, Kawaha tried to dribble left, but Baum anticipated the move and cut her off. That’s what makes Kawaha so tough. She’s a directional dribbler. She can go in either direction. But Baum was ready.
Still, Kaneshiro was encouraged by the play of Schmelz and Olson.
“Kim was good. We needed her to step up, especially with Mandi out. It was good to see her break out like that,” he said. “Bree brings a lot of energy every night. It was good to see her score, and she knocked down a couple of 3s.”
The Vulcans are now 1-24 all-time against the Sharks.
UHH next plays Chaminade in a two-game series at noon Saturday, Jan. 30 and Sunday, Jan. 31 at McCabe Gym in Honolulu.