The Hawaii women’s basketball team finally learned the identity of its Big West tournament semifinal opponent.
Second-seeded UH will meet third-seeded UC Riverside at 11:30 a.m. (HST) Friday at the Honda Center. That was sealed when the Highlanders defeated Long Beach State 67-50 at UC Irvine Wednesday afternoon.
UH has been practicing at Cal State Fullerton and Fullerton College in an attempt to stay sharp through its double bye earned last week with two key road wins at Riverside and Cal State Northridge.
UH (14-15, 10-6 Big West) split with Riverside (17-14, 10-6) during the regular season. The Highlanders, led by versatile guard Jannon Otto, held on for a 60-55 win at the Stan Sheriff Center on Jan. 30 after leading by as many as 20 points in the third quarter. But the Rainbow Wahine returned the favor last week Thursday, defeating UCR 51-44 on its senior night with Otto watching in street clothes.
Otto hasn’t participated since, and it sounds like she will be out the rest of this week with some kind of foot or leg injury. That is a considerable break for the Rainbow Wahine, absolutely no pun intended.
“They’re very different without Otto, their best player. And I definitely believe we are very different just with developing our chemistry (the last five games),” UH coach Laura Beeman said in a phone interview from Southern California on Wednesday night. “Playing much better as a team right now, definitely have some confidence. They’re a very, very difficult matchup because of the motion offense they run. You know, but they’re definitely struggling without their best player Otto.”
The Wahine enjoyed one of emerging freshman Myrrah Joseph’s better games of the season at SRC Arena. She had 14 points and seven rebounds, and that was even with 2-for-11 shooting on free throws. She shot 6-for-9 from the field.
As for the other semifinal, fifth-seeded UC Irvine just edged No. 4 CSUN 59-57 to earn the last semifinal berth and will face top seed UC Davis preceding UH’s game Friday.
Teams won’t get into the Honda Center for a shootaround until game day.