Rainbow Wahine basketball: Back to Work

Hours before welcoming the new year, the Rainbow Wahine basketball team will try to close 2014 on a celebratory note.

After splitting a road trip leading into Christmas, the Wahine return to the Stan Sheriff Center on Wednesday afternoon for a New Year’s Eve matchup with Hawaii Pacific to open a two-game homestand.

Tip off between the Rainbow Wahine (6-5) and Sharks (8-2, 4-2 PacWest) is set for 1 p.m.

“Hopefully people will come out and support us before they start their celebrations,” UH coach Laura Beeman said.

Following Wednesday’s game — which counts as a regular-season game for UH but will be an exhibition for HPU — the Wahine close the nonconference schedule against UNC Greensboro on Friday before starting the Big West season next week.

After beating Loyola Marymount and losing to Cal State Bakersfield on a California road trip, most of the team stayed on the mainland to spend Christmas with their families then reconvened for an optional shootaround on Sunday.

In the team’s first full practice since the CSUB loss last Tuesday, Beeman set the tone for the week on Monday with a session devoted to defense.

“We need to have a change of intensity, we need to have a change in sense of urgency on defense and we don’t have that. That’s our issue,” Beeman said.

“What we will work on from now until that Cal Poly game on the road (to open Big West play) is we have got to get a sense of urgency.”

The Wahine had little trouble with its first PacWest opponent of the season in a 92-40 win over BYU Hawaii on Dec. 13, but Beeman expects a sterner test against HPU.

UH opponents have made 65 3-pointers while shooting a collective 39.4 percent from behind the arc this season. On average, HPU attempts nearly 21 3-pointers per game, making close to eight. Senior guard Chenise Peone, a transfer from Eastern Washington, leads the Sharks with 27 3-pointers in 62 attempts while Kylie Huerta has made 18 of 38 from long range and Veanne Navarro drained 15 of 30 attempts.

The Sharks also get production inside from Morganne Comstock, a 6-foot-2 center, who leads the HPU with 18.5 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.

“HPU is a very good team. They’re going to pose some problems for us that we have encountered throughout the preseason with what they do offensively and we have to be able to make some changes and adjustments against them,” Beeman said.

Shawna-Lei Kuehu and Morgan Mason, two of UH’s top three scorers, sat out significant portions of the CSUB game but weren’t limited in Monday’s practice.

Kuehu had a relatively quiet road trip with a total of 10 points in two games, but continues to lead UH with 12.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Ashleigh Karaitiana is the only UH player to score in double figures in all 11 games and enters Wednesday’s game averaging 11.8.

Destiny King is coming off a solid road trip in which she followed up a 12-point effort against LMU with a career-high 15 points against CSUB with eight rebounds.