Limited numbers has put a premium on efficiency in the Rainbow Wahine basketball team’s remaining practices leading up to next week’s season opener.
After winning their exhibition game against UH Hilo on Oct. 16 with seven healthy and eligible players, the ’Bows are up to eight in practice this week. So the UH coaching staff has structured the workouts to balance the workload without draining the tank heading into a 29-game regular-season schedule. They open at USC on Nov. 11 and face Cal State Bakersfield two days later.
“I think our conditioning is pretty good. We’re having to mix some things up with not going so hard and putting too many miles on legs because of how limited we are,” UH coach Laura Beeman said. “But the girls are doing a good job of taking advantage of every moment we have and I appreciate that for sure.”
In the 84-63 exhibition win over UH Hilo last Wednesday, playing time ranged from 21 to 34 minutes with all seven scoring at least seven points led by guard Briana Harris’ 17 and double-double performances from sophomore Lahni Salanoa (16 points, 11 rebounds) and freshman guard Julissa Tago (13, 10).
UH shot 48 percent from the field and went 11-for-25 from 3-point range against the Division II Vulcans. In the practices since, Beeman said “our offense is looking good. There’s good chemistry, we’re still shooting the ball well. It’s now learning new things and applying it and that just takes time with a young team.”
Defense remains her more pressing concern. The thin rotation could lead to more possessions in zone than past years, but Beeman said they’re still refining their man-to-man look while also honing in on USC.
“We’ve started to show some of the different on- and off-ball screen actions we think we’re going to see,” Beeman said. “We’re starting to put those into circuits and try to put it into five-on-five and run it so our girls understand how quick the action may come.”
There’s also the challenge of facing a USC team with five players 6-3 or taller for a UH rotation that will top out with freshmen Taylor Donohue (6-3) and Makenna Woodfolk (6-2).
“Athletic, long, fast. The speed the physicality, the basketball IQ is something that we haven’t practiced against. It’s hard to replicate that,” Beeman said. “So they’re going to be a very tough opening game for us. But that’s what we want. It’s the schedule we have, we’re not going to cry about it, we’re just going to play hard.”
Beeman hopes the depth chart reaches nine by the time the Wahine depart on their season-opening road trip next Wednesday morning.
“Nine sounds like a whole lot more than eight, which sounds like a whole lot more than seven,” Beeman said.
Woodfolk sat out the exhibition with an ankle injury and has since returned to practice. With Woodfolk out, Donohue was UH’s lone true post player in the exhibition and shared time at center with Lahni Salanoa.
Freshman forward Keleah-Aiko Koloi hasn’t practiced since aggravating a knee injury in the Green and White scrimmage on Oct. 21, but could make the trip and see action on opening weekend.
“At the the end of this week we’ll reevaluate her,” Beeman said. “We’ll take her with us, maybe get her into that Bakersfield game.”
Freshman guard Courtney Middap is expected to be out another four to six weeks following surgery on her meniscus on Wednesday. Although Middap will miss a chunk of the nonconference schedule, Beeman said the prognosis “is a good thing. We didn’t know what to expect.”