ANAHEIM, Calif. – Despite a prolific first half, the University of Hawai'i women's basketball team succumbed to top-seeded UC Davis, 58-50 in the Big West Tournament championship game Saturday at the Honda Center.
The Rainbow Wahine (15-16), which led by as many as 17 early in the second half, was seeking their second Big West title in the last four years. Instead, UH will be headed to the WNIT, the fifth postseason appearance under head coach Laura Beeman.
The top-seeded Aggies (25-6), which trailed by double-digits for the majority of the first half, out-scored UH, 22-8 in the decisive fourth quarter and held the Wahine to only one field goal in the period. Big West Tournament Most Outstanding Player Morgan Bertsch finished with a game-high 23 points for the Aggies, who extended their win streak to 16 games.
Senior Tia Kanoa led UH with 15 points while senior Leah Salanoa added 14. Both were named to the all-tournament team.
UH, which had handed the Aggies their only Big West loss earlier in the season, held the league's highest scoring team to 14 points under their average (72.2 ppg) and only 18 in the first half. But after allowing a Salanoa three-pointer to start the third quarter, UCD would eventually out-score the 'Bows 40-15 the rest of the way.
The first half was as good a half the Rainbow Wahine played all season. UH used an 8-0 run, including consecutive three-pointers by Courtney Middap and Amy Atwell, to build a 13-6 lead midway through the first quarter. UH closed out the period by scoring the final seven points for a 22-10 advantage.
Hawai'i maintained its momentum and defensive intensity in the second quarter, limiting the Aggies to only eight points. The 'Bows extended the lead to 14 with a pair of buckets by Middap and Myrrah Joseph for a 32-18 halftime lead.
After Salanoa's three-pointer to start the third quarter, UCD went on a 7-0 run with its first triple and a lay-up by Bertsch, cutting the deficit to 10 at 39-29. The Wahine still maintained the lead through the end of the quarter at 42-36 despite going without a field goal for the final five minutes.
The Aggies slowly chipped away and retook the lead at 47-45 with a three-pointer by Sophia Song. Baskets by Bertsch and Cierra Hall and a free throw by Song capped a 16-0 run spanning more than nine minutes and sealed UCD's comeback victory.
UH will now await word on its destination for the WNIT, which begins March 20. Hawai'i has made nine all-time appearances in the WNIT with its last in 2015.
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