Hawaii’s Laura Beeman had company among coaches complementing the Rainbow Wahine basketball team’s efforts over the weekend.
Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer and North Carolina’s Sylvia Hatchell — both members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame with more than 1,800 wins between team — offered praise for the Wahine (4-3) after their teams held off UH’s upset bids in the Waikiki Beach Marriott Rainbow Wahine Shootout.
“I was very impressed with not only their team but the excellent coaching,” VanDerveer said after the Cardinal’s 86-73 win on Saturday. “They move the ball, they give you mismatch problems. … Our team had to step up. We had to play good defense.”
Hatchell, who trails only Pat Summitt in career wins among women’s basketball coaches, had a similar takeaway after the Tar Heels closed the tournament with a 74-65 victory over UH on Sunday.
“I knew it was going to be a tough game,” Hatchell said. “Hawaii’s got a very, very good team. They play hard, they’re well coached. They’ve got some really nice players.”
UH went 2-3 in its early-season tournaments, all three losses coming against teams ranked in the top 10 of this week’s Associated Press poll.
North Carolina (7-0) jumped five spots to No. 6 in the poll released on Monday while Stanford (5-2), which lost to UNC last Friday, slipped to No. 8. California (6-0), which escaped with a seven-point win over UH on Nov. 21, moved up to No. 10.
After the UNC game, Beeman said UH’s opponents had to get “focused and locked in when they play us because they know we’re here to play. We made North Carolina raise their level tonight.”
“The name on the jersey says a lot,” UH senior Shawna-Lei Kuehu said of playing high-profile programs. “We’re making our name known now.”
Kuehu represented UH on the all-tournament team despite missing most of the second half against Stanford with a bruised knee. She returned on Sunday to score a game-high 28 points against North Carolina.
“It was a little sore, got a little bruise on it, but it held up,” Kuehu said. “When you play for your team nothing hurts.”
VanDerveer, officially The Setsuko Ishiyama Director of Women’s Basketball at Stanford, didn’t see much of Kuehu on the floor on Saturday due to foul trouble and the injury. Even so, the Wahine stayed within striking distance, closing to within six in the second half.
“(Kuehu) does so much for them. But I thought they didn’t have a pity party for themselves,” VanDerveer said. “They kept playing hard. I was very impressed with how they moved the ball. They pass the ball very well.”
Following a relatively quiet night against Prairie View A&M, Destiny King scored 13 points against both Stanford and UNC with 15 rebounds combined and Ashleigh Karaitiana extended her streak of double-figure point totals to seven straight games.
UH had 10 assists against a season-low seven turnovers against Stanford. The Wahine struggled against UNC’s pressure at times on Sunday and the Tar Heels swiped 11 steals as UH committed 16 turnovers to 11 assists.
Both Stanford and UNC found soft spots in UH’s perimeter defense in combining to hit 20 3-pointers in 34 attempts.
Beeman said the Wahine “were matching up incorrectly and leaving shooters open and some of their kids who had not been hitting 3s seemed to pick a night against us and that’s what elite teams do.”
After playing five games in a 10-day stretch, the Wahine have the rest of the week to recharge for Saturday’s game against Pacific at the Stan Sheriff Center.