Courtesy of Hawai'i Athletics
The University of Hawai'i women's basketball team captured the Big West Conference Tournament title with a 78-59 victory over UC Davis Saturday at the Honda Center.
The top-seeded Rainbow Wahine (21-10) advances to their sixth NCAA Tournament appearance and first since 1998. UH, which was playing in its second straight Big West tourney final, captured its second all-time conference tournament crown (1996).
Forward Ashleigh Karaitiana was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player after leading the Rainbow Wahine with 17 points, including five three-pointers. Guard Destiny King was also named to the all-tournament team and finished with eight points, seven assists, and five rebounds.
Head coach Laura Beeman, in her fourth season with the school, will lead the Rainbow Wahine to their fourth straight postseason appearance after three straight WNIT appearances. UH, winners of 11 of its last 12, will now await the NCAA Tournament Selection Show on Monday.
In addition to Karaitiana, two other Rainbow Wahine scored in double figures – guard Briana Harris (13) and forward Megan Huff (10). Harris, who constantly attacked the rim for her points, also recorded eight rebounds and five assists, while Huff and center Kalei Adolpho were relentless on the offensive glass. UH shot 50 percent from the field and dominated the board, out-rebounding the Aggies, 47-to-29.
Fourth-seeded UCD (19-13), which upset top-seeded UC Riverside in the semifinals, was led by Morgan Bertsch's 19 points.
After a close first quarter, the Rainbow Wahine scored the first eight points of the second period and before the Aggies knew it, UH had built a 17-point lead at 35-18 after another 7-0 run. Hawai'i shot 78.6 percent in the second quarter and held a dominant advantage on the boards (12-3) to enter halftime with a 40-25 lead.
UH stretched its lead to 21 in the third quarter as Karaitiana knocked down back-to-back threes. The cushion was 22 entering the final period and the Rainbow Wahine were never threatened.
Hawai'i's bench out-scored UCD, 33-10, and the Rainbow Wahine held a distinct 18-4 advantage on second-chance points. UH, which made the tournament in 1989, '90, '94, '96, and '98 – all under legendary coach Vince Goo – are 1-5 all-time in the Big Dance.