By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
The University of Hawaii at Hilo women’s basketball team played hard to the end, battling back from an early 14-point deficit, but it didn’t do a really good job of blocking out against Cal Baptist, the biggest difference between two teams disproportionate in size.
Cal Baptist defeated the Vulcans 60-50 in a Pacific West Conference game on Saturday before 404 fans at UHH Gym, winning its fifth straight to climb in the standings while making life tougher for the home team’s bid for a spot in the inaugural six-team playoffs.
The Lady Vulcans (11-8 overall, 8-5 PacWest) have four home games left. The next one is against Point Loma Nazarene on Feb. 16.
The Lancers (15-5, 9-3) were bigger at every position and enjoyed that healthy height advantage, outrebounding the Vuls 54-37, including a eye-opening 20 offensive boards; UHH had just eight in a game where accurate shooting took the night off.
“We played hard but were out of rhythm offensively the entire night,” UHH coach David Kaneshiro said. “But give Cal Baptist credit for that. I’m proud of the way we battled. We struggled with field goals and free throws.”
UHH shot 38 percent (21 of 56) from the field, including 2 of 13 from 3-point range. Cal Baptist hit 30 percent from the floor, but got to the line and made 20 of 31 free throws. The Vulcans connected on just 6 of 17 free throws for 35 percent, a worse shooting percentage than its field goals.
In the first half, the Lancers kept turning and converting short jumpers over the Vulcans during a 14-0 run to grab a 16-2 lead. Then UHH immediately answered with a run of its own, albeit a much smaller one. Natalie Mata scored four points during a short 8-0 scoring spree, sparked when the home team started to block out, rebound and get the ball out to the wings.
The Vuls had to work hard for their points in the first half. Nothing came easy. They got only two layups in transition, and made 2 of 4 free throws; CBU went 8 for 13 from the charity stripe. The Vuls also didn’t help themselves with inaccurate shooting, 7 for 30 or 23 percent on field goals, including 0 of 8 from 3-point range.
They trailed 29-16 at halftime. They came out in the second half and attacked the basketball, chipping away at the lead and got it down to five with 10 minutes left when Shannon Rousseau drilled a 3-pointer, getting UHH within 43-38.
Jasmine Beverly, at 5 feet 11, gave the Vuls all sorts of trouble. She scored 16 points on 6 of 11 shooting, and grabbed 15 rebounds. Myriah Hicks added 14 points and Simone Holmes had 12 for the Lancers, who buried only 4 of 22 3-point attempts.
Kamie Imai had 10 points and nine rebounds, while Kirsty Imai and Jazzmyn Davis also had 10 points each for UHH.
“We’ve got four more home games. We’ve got a lot to play for,” Kaneshiro said. “I thought we showed our character. We kept fighting. I know this group will be back.”
Cal Baptist 29 31 — 60
UHH 16 34 — 50