Coach Laura Beeman confident about Rainbow Wahine growth

Jamm Aquino/ Hawai’i head coach Laura Beeman talks to guard Daejah Phillips (0) during the first half.

The Rainbow Wahine took a big step forward, which is not always easy for a young team.

Hawaii secured its first win of the Big West Conference season, 49-47, over a gritty Cal State Fullerton squad on Friday, eschewing baby steps. The Wahine got 17 points from redshirt freshman Olivia Davies, who was 7-for-11 from the field. Jadynn Alexander tallied 14 points as UH attacked a sticky Titans man-to-man defense.

Coach Laura Beeman was the constant, with the same tone while her team was ahead 38-15 in the third quarter, and while CSUF rallied to within 45-44 in the final minutes.

“It was nice to see us click a little bit, especially not having a lot of experience practicing or playing. Defensively, for awhile, we were on point. Fullerton plays hard and plays well. That’s D-I basketball and a little bit where we are, a little bit unpredictable,” Beeman said. “I’m very pleased we closed out.”

The visiting Titans hustled for 16 offensive rebounds to stay in the game.

“Lack of focus, lack of making contact, ball watching. Sometimes we don’t do a lot of work when the ball is in flight. Some of it is lack of experience. You always want to see your team get its composure back and execute. We did a fairly good job of that,” Beeman said.

After two competitive losses on the road at Cal State Bakersfield last week, the win is timely.

“The first weekend (of conference play), we just wanted to give ourselves a good foundation. I was very pleased with what we did on the road. Bakersfield is very athletic, very poised,” she said.

Hawaii is 2-3 overall with a group that has senior leadership and a lot of young players in key roles. Freshman point guard Kelsie Imai splashed a key 3 down the stretch and played 21 minutes. Davies, coming off an injury that derailed her first season, was difficult to cover on drives. She logged 34 minutes and Alexander played 35 minutes.

Beeman had concerns about her Rainbow Wahine early in the season as the pandemic worsened across the country.

“The emotional toll is the ups and downs of basketball, of COVID. We have to be fluid and go with the bumps,” she said.

Davies was admittedly nervous during warmups in her first start. The former Alaska high school standout shores up a backcourt that lost Nae Nae Calhoun to a knee injury in December.

“I think tomorrow, we’ll be able to focus a little better,” Davies said. “We know we can compete with them.”

CSUF expects to have leading scorer Amiee Book on the court tonight. Book (15.6 points per game) did not play on Friday.