The Big West’s stingiest 3-point defense faces one of the conference’s most prolific long-range shooters when the University of Hawaii women’s basketball team takes on UC Irvine tonight at the Stan Sheriff Center.
The Rainbow Wahine (6-11, 2-3 Big West) have held opponents to a league-low 27.2 percent shooting beyond the 3-point arc overall and 24.5 percent in Big West play. UC Irvine guard Andree Ritter enters the game leading the league with 53 made 3-pointers in 159 attempts.
“We have to have a great game plan and we have to execute it for 40 minutes,” UH coach Laura Beeman said. “They have one very, very good 3-point shooter and we have to do our job on her and not let other people go off on us.”
Ritter was limited to 15 games last season after coming back from a knee injury and went 14-for-48 from 3-point range as a freshman. UH held Ritter, a 6-foot sophomore, to a total of 10 points on 1-for-8 shooting (1-for-4 from 3-point range) in two wins over the Anteaters last year.
Under first-year coach Tamara Inoue, Ritter is averaging 8.3 3-point attempts per game and nearly 75 percent of her total attempts have come from behind the arc. She tied a school record by hitting seven against UC Riverside on Jan. 7.
Ritter enters tonight’s game averaging 11.7 points per game while 6-2 senior forward Shereen Sutherland, who began her college career at Arizona, leads UCI with 12.5 ppg while shooting 42 percent from the field.
Although the Wahine faced Ritter last season, UH freshman guard Julissa Tago is probably most familiar with her game. Tago and Ritter were teammates at South Medford High School in Oregon with Tago named Southwest Conference Player of the Year as a junior in 2015 and Ritter on the first-team.
Tago went 11-for-15 from the field with three 3-pointers during last week’s road trip. She scored a season-high 17 points in the win at Cal Poly and added nine in a loss at UC Santa Barbara. She also had three assists with no turnovers on the trip.
Sarah Toeaina shot nearly 55 percent (17-for-31) while scoring 23 and 22 points in last week’s games and senior Briana Harris hit for 24 points against Cal Poly and 14 against UCSB on 55 percent shooting. Collectively, the Wahine shot 53 percent in the last two games after shooting 35 percent in the previous 15.
“We definitely feel the shift,” Toeaina said. “We feel things pretty much melting together for us. The pieces are finding their places in our puzzle and no better time than now.”
After playing four of their first five Big West games on the road, the Rainbow Wahine make only their third appearance at the Stan Sheriff Center since over the last 46 days.
They’ll face Cal Poly on Saturday in a rematch of last Thursday’s game in San Luis Obispo, Calif. The Mustangs will have a full week to prepare for the trip after a bounce-back win at Cal State Northridge last Saturday.
“This schedule definitely has not been favorable to us,” Beeman said. “Not only the four out of five on the road, but seeing someone in less than 10 days and they only have one game in seven days to rest and prepare for us. … A little crazy but we’re going to take it the way we take it and get better.”