Just a couple of years ago, the Big West race was defined by guard play.
This season, the spotlight has shifted into the paint.
The Rainbow Wahine basketball team will face two of the conference’s top post players this week when Big West leader UC Davis and Cal State Northridge visit the Stan Sheriff Center.
UH (8-15, 4-7 Big West) has dropped four straight and begins the second half of its four-game homestand tonight against a UC Davis team led by forward Morgan Bertsch. The 6-foot-4 sophomore ranks second in the conference with 16.4 points per game while shooting 52.4 percent from the field, good for fourth in the conference.
CSUN follows on Saturday anchored inside by Channon Fluker, another sophomore who entered the week just behind Berstch in the Big West rankings with 16 points per game and a league-high 12 rebounds per game. Fluker also leads the conference with 56 blocks followed by Bertsch with 40.
UH was one of the conference’s biggest teams inside the last two years, with Kalei Adolpho, Connie Morris and Megan Huff part of the post rotation. The Wahine lost all five post players off last year’s Big West tournament title team and freshmen Keleah-Aiko Koloi, Makenna Woodfolk, Taylor Donohue and Adrienne Darden have been learning on the go.
Bertsch scored 24 points in UC Davis’ 70-55 win over UH on Jan. 7 in Northern California and the Aggies outscored the Wahine 34-16 in the paint. Fluker had 21 points and 14 rebounds in CSUN’s first meeting with UH on Feb. 4.
Last week, UC Riverside forward Rejane Verin, the Big West’s leading scorer, posted 26 points and 12 rebounds against UH last Wednesday and UC Santa Barbara forward Drew Edelman scored 22 points in the post in the Gauchos’ 67-52 win over UH last Saturday.
“We had Kalei Adoloho, we had Connie Morris before anybody else had bigs and then all of a sudden you’re seeing this influx of bigs that are coming in,” UH coach Laura Beeman said.
Although graduation and transfers thinned UH’s post experience this season, “you can’t cry, you gotta deal with it,” Beeman said.
“I still believe even with our lack of post play because of maturity, if we weren’t just lacking some discipline and lacking some focus we don’t lose some of the games we’ve lost.”
UC Davis (18-6, 9-2 BWC) and CSUN (13-11, 6-4) both entered the week with five-game winning streaks.