Compared to a run of five games in 10 days to close November, the Rainbow Wahine basketball team’s schedule thins out considerably in December.
Sunday’s 72-49 loss at UCLA was the first of just five games this month and the Wahine will have a full week to recharge before returning to the Stan Sheriff Center to face Hawaii Pacific University on Sunday.
“The next week is going to be about getting this team healthy,” UH coach Laura Beeman said after the UCLA game. “We have some banged up bodies and we have a flu bug going around. We absolutely need to get healthy. We’ve got finals coming up, I want them concentrating on that.”
The program will host its Hoopla fundraiser on Thursday and faces HPU at 2 p.m. Sunday prior to finals week. They’ll head back on the road for a two-game road trip to Nevada on Dec. 18 and Boise State on Dec. 20 and end the calendar year with a home game against Grand Canyon on Dec. 29 before starting Big West play in the first week of 2017.
But first things first …
“We need a win against HPU,” Beeman said. “We need a win and we need to taste that before we get on the road with Reno and Boise.”
The Wahine (2-6) were limited to a seven-player rotation on Sunday with freshman forward Keleah-Aiko Koloi out due to the flu. Sophomore forward Lahni Salanoa is still recovering from an ankle injury, although she did some light shooting during practice prior to the road trip.
While the UH rotation will likely remain at eight for the HPU game, the Wahine figure to get a boost in numbers for the Nevada/Boise State road trip with redshirt freshman Adrienne Darden eligible to compete following final exams for the fall semester. The 6-foot-4 center was a mid-year transfer last season and will add size and depth to a post rotation anchored by true freshmen Makenna Woodfolk and Taylor Donohue.
Beeman also hopes Salanoa and freshman guard Courtney Middap will soon be available as well. Middap has yet to play after suffering a knee injury in the second week of practice.
Prior to the UCLA trip, Beeman said the December schedule allows for “a lot of practice, and the ability to hopefully get Courtney, Lahni and AD (Darden) on the floor more and working within our system so when they do come on the floor for Reno and Boise, hopefully, they’ll know our system and they’ll be in basketball shape.”
They’ll join a lineup now led by junior Sarah Toeaina’s 11.8 points per game. Toeaina represented the bulk of the UH offense for most of Sunday’s game and finished with 16 points on 7-for-15 shooting from the field in 32 minutes against UCLA. Guard Olivia Crawford finished with 10 points and Briana Harris scored 13, all in the second half.
Toeaina has scored in double figures in five games this season with a high of 24 against San Jose State on Nov. 25.
“She’s starting to get her confidence, she’s starting to find her rhythm a little bit,” Beeman said. “We need to get her the ball more, but that’s hard when you turn the ball over 20 times.”
UH committed 10 turnovers in the first quarter while falling behind 21-3 against UCLA, but settled down to commit just six in the second half and outscored the Bruins 18-13 in the fourth quarter led by Harris’ three 3-pointers.
“The bottom line is we didn’t compete the whole game, but we did come back in that second half and we definitely competed much better,” Beeman said.
UH will head into the HPU game looking to end a four-game skid that includes two losses to top-10 teams (current No. 5 Mississippi State and No. 9 UCLA) and another to an Oregon team just outside this week’s Associated Press Top 25.