Pepperdine guard Paige Fecske sprinted along the baseline, came around a curl and launched a stop-and-pop 3 that circled the rim and dropped through with 10 seconds left, a successful designed play by the trailing (now leading) Waves coming out of a timeout.
Hawaii was unable to respond in kind — its play after timeout was busted and newcomer Savannah Reier had the best option remaining, a tough mid-range leaner that came up short with about five or four seconds left — in a 65-64 loss to the Waves on 2018-19 opening night Tuesday.
— Steve Chen (@BigWestMD) November 7, 2018
“That was definitely not why we lost that ball game,” UH coach Laura Beeman said. “We lost it at the end of the first half, when we turned the ball over up seven and went in up two. We lost that game when we gave up two offensive rebounds back to back, I think it was in the fourth quarter. We had two wide-open layups that we missed. Those were the possessions that lost us that ballgame, not a blown scheme at the end or a missed shot. There were 39 minutes and 41 seconds before that we should’ve wrapped that game up but didn’t.”
UH, which dropped its opener for the third straight year, had offsetting positives and negatives that made for a back-and-forth game with Pepperdine, a team picked to finish near the bottom of the WCC. The Wahine shot a superb 7-for-14 on 3s and 25-for-29 at the free-throw line. They also committed 21 turnovers, many on miscommunicated passes.
Beeman was upbeat, considering the outcome — “We’re going to be more than OK,” she said — as her team readies for a two-game trip to San Diego State (Friday) and San Diego (Sunday).
“We’re going to learn a lot from this, and get out on the road and take care of business.”
Forward Kenna Woodfolk had 18 points, guard Courtney Middap started for the first time and scored a career-high 14, and point guard Tia Kanoa had an efficient 11 while enjoying catch-and-shoot opportunities she didn’t get last year now that Middap is helping her run the show.
There were also some feeling-out pains from players looking to do more in the wake of Sarah Toeaina’s graduation. Middap and Woodfolk combined for 12 of the turnovers.
“We have more fight this year than we did in the past years,” Woodfolk said. “And so this game definitely defined our season. Like (Coach) said, we’re going to be OK. This is November. We have a long season to grow and get better.”
Kanoa, who often handled the ball all 40 minutes in her first full Wahine season last year post-Arizona State transfer, endorsed the assistance from Middap, who started at the off guard but shifted to point at times. Kanoa had some catch-and-shoot opportunities that just weren’t there last year, and she responded by going 4-for-5 from the field.
“Courtney’s been outstanding. She stepped up when she needed to,” Kanoa said, “jumping in there and taking control when she needs to. That’s definitely helpful.”
There were encouraging debuts by Reier, a junior guard out of Shelton State (Ala.) Community College, and freshman utility player Myrrah Joseph, out of Carson (Calif.) Senior High. Joseph scored seven points in 10 minutes and Reier had several energy plays that the crowd of 404 applauded.
The Wahine showed some friskiness on defense, with Reier, Rachel Odumu and Jadynn Alexander rotating to pester the Waves, sometimes with a fullcourt press. Even Kanoa, who didn’t record a blocked shot all last year, swatted Pecske (22 points, 7-for-21 shooting) on a desperation 3 in the third quarter. Leah Salanoa tied her career rebounds high of eight, and Woodfolk matched her personal best of four steals.
UH was without senior Lahni Salanoa and sophomore Amy Atwell as they recover from preseason injuries. Beeman expressed doubt that they’d be ready for the games in San Diego.
“There’s no sense in bringing them back too quickly,” she said. “That was why we didn’t have Tia for the exhibition game (vs. Hawaii Hilo last week), Myrrah Joseph for the exhibition game.”