The size disparity will almost certainly not be as glaring as it was on Thursday, when Hawaii was head and shoulders above Hawaii Hilo in a preseason exhibition at the Stan Sheriff Center.
But UH thinks it has something it can turn to in the post-Sarah Toeaina chapter of Rainbow Wahine basketball — posts.
The Rainbow Wahine tuned up for their 2018-19 season opener by towering over the overmatched Vulcans, 62-26, in front of a smattering of fans and other onlookers in the Sheriff.
Sophomore center Lauren Rewers led the Wahine with 15 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots. Forward Leah Salanoa added 11 points and eight boards, and forward Kenna Woodfolk had 11 points, five rebounds and six steals.
“It’s always been an emphasis (going inside), but I think it’s going to be a bigger emphasis this year,” said the 6-foot-2, Woodfolk, who then nodded toward the 6-4 Rewers sitting to her right. “Knowing that we’ve both improved inside and they’re working on us with our lockouts, how to get open in the post. So, I think it will be a big emphasis in that.”
“It helps our offense too,” Rewers added. “We’re occupying inside, it leaves the guards open shots. They’ve been doing a good job working (on) footwork and getting shots off.”
UH went 12-18 last season (5-11 Big West) and lost the slashing Toeaina — its No. 9 all-time scorer (1,204 points) — to graduation. It was far from sublime offensively, shooting 42 percent from the field, but the game was never close as Hilo was held to 17.8 percent.
Neither team was sharp from long range — UH was 4-for-23 on 3s and UHH was 2-for-19 — so the game was decided inside, where the Division Vulcans had no chance, getting outrebounded 45-27 and outblocked 5-0.
“Staying down was a big emphasis,” Woodfolk said. “They were really small, and we want to block shots because they’re small, but we had to stay down and control ourselves.”
Frontcourt depth still could be a concern with the preseason departures of Mackenzie Clinch Hoycard and Taylor Donohue.
That was underscored Thursday as the Wahine were without Tia Kanoa, Lahni Salanoa, Amy Atwell and Myrrah Joseph due to injuries, leaving them with nine available. Courtney Middap took the point guard reins in Kanoa’s absence and was backed up by freshman Lamarria Johnson. Middap had six assists and four turnovers.
In unusual fashion, UH coach Laura Beeman left the arena after the game without speaking to the media, so no injury update there. But it sounds like UH will get all of them back in time for Tuesday’s regular-season opener vs. Pepperdine, except Salanoa, who was in a protective boot on the bench Thursday.
Allie Navarette led coach David Kaneshiro’s Vulcans with nine points and five rebounds. UHH had just eight players available to UH’s nine.