Defense was a recurring theme in Laura Beeman’s postgame comments following the Rainbow Wahine basketball team’s exhibition win over Hawaii Hilo on Oct. 29.
She’s maintained that emphasis over the two weeks leading up to Friday’s season opener at Colorado State.
“After Hilo, we haven’t stopped defensive practices,” UH senior Shawna-Lei Kuehu said.
Beeman opens her third season as head coach by leading the Wahine into Moby Arena in Fort Collins, Colo. for a matchup with Mountain West Conference favorite Colorado State on Friday. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. Hawaii time. The road trip continues Sunday with the Wahine facing Denver.
After UH showed off some scoring options in the 90-53 exhibition win over Division II UH-Hilo, Beeman kept the team focused on getting stops in the practices since.
“We’ve been hitting defense every day, we have to get better,” Beeman said. “Defense is one of those things, it’s so fluid and changes with every possession. You teach it one way and it changes because the ball moves just a little bit or the angle of the passer moves a little bit. So defense is something that just takes repetition and experience to be able to execute it properly.”
The Wahine returnees enter the game with some experience in defending Colorado State, having faced the Rams in the Waikiki Beach Marriott Rainbow Wahine Shootout last season.
Four Colorado State players scored in double figures that night, led by Elin Gustavsson’s 17, and the Rams pulled out a 65-60 win in overtime on their way to a 25-8 season. Gustavsson is one of four starters returning this season and the Rams were picked to win the MWC after going 15-3 in conference play last season.
“We do have familiarity with them as a coaching staff and our returners,” Beeman said, “but we have a lot of newcomers.”
The newcomers will be especially prevalent in the frontcourt with the additions of transfers Connie Morris and Raja Moreno-Ross and freshman Dalayna Sampton. Shawlina Segovia is set to make her UH debut after sitting out last season and Angelina Smith returns after having her freshman year reduced to seven games due to an injury.
Beeman will keep close watch on the rotations to make sure the Wahine have ample experience on the floor and is comfortable going with smaller lineups, at times moving Destiny King or Ashleigh Karaitiana to power forward.
Experience is in abundance in the backcourt with the return of King, Morgan Mason and Briana Harris at the point and Karaitiana, Kuehu and Marissa Wimbley on the wings. Freshman Sarah Toeaina figures to be called upon to contribute early in her career as well.
To prepare for the altitude in Colorado, the coaches hustled the players from conditioning periods into shooting drills without much recovery time in practices this week.
“I feel like we can put the ball in the hole, I feel like we have a lot of different people who can score, a lot of different weapons. It’s just going to be can we hit shots in that environment, in that altitude,” Beeman said.
The game will be streamed online at csurams.com/videos/