By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
The University of Hawaii at Hilo women’s basketball team opened its collegiate season with an offensive rush on Saturday afternoon, cruising to to 90-62 win over Chaminade University.
The nonconference game was played before a small crowd at UHH Gym.
The Vulcans, under coach David Kaneshiro, placed five players in double figures with juniors Jazzmyn Davis and Kamie Imai leading the way with 16 and 12 points, respectively. Seniors Kirsten Shimizu, Jameia McDuffie and Natalie Mata each added 10 points.
The hosts raced to a 42-23 halftime advantage over the young Silverswords (0-1), controlling the glass and getting out in transition for some easy baskets. The Vulcans’ ability to handle the ball on the break and either score on the drive or hit open teammates for high-percentage shots kept them ahead for good throughout the 40-minute contest. But in the second half, UHH got into foul trouble and sent the Silverswords to the free-throw line a lot as the visitors made 16 of 23 charity shots.
Kaneshiro was pleased with the season-opening win in which he got to play all 13 of his players.
“We did some good things, especially in transition,” the UHH coach said. “We had good spacing and were very unselfish with the ball. Defensively, we were very good at times, but we still have a lot to work to do on our helpside. We got spaced out a little too much, reached too much and were out of position at times, and we have to work on closing out with a better angle.
“But overall, we made some shots tonight and the effort was there by everybody. I like the potential of this group.”
Davis, a 5-foot-10 junior starting forward from Pacoima, Calif., hit 6 of 8 field goals and 4 of 5 free throws for her game-high 16 points. She also had six rebounds, one assist and two steals in 18 solid minutes.
“Jazz had good energy,” Kaneshiro said. “She had a good week of practice and it carried over into the game. She’s versatile and can do some good things for us.”
Imai, a 5-9 starting forward out of Waiakea High School and Utah State transfer, made 5 of 10 field goals and both of her free throws for 12 points. She also had six rebounds, a team-high four assists, two blocks and two steals in 21 minutes.
“Kamie did a very good job,” Kaneshiro said. “Her size and skill level have added to our team’s dimension. She can handle the ball and is a willing passer — she can find people in the open, and hopefully our shooters can knock down those shots. We’ve given her the green light to push the ball down the court when she has it.
“As a team, I like our versatility and skill level. We want to push the ball more this year and think we have the type of players to be successful in that style of play.”
The Vulcans showcased that style of play in both halves, often leading to layups, short jumpers or open 3-pointers. For example, in the first half, UHH scored three quality baskets in transition as McDuffie hit a layup off a clever Shimizu assist, Imai banked in a follow-up shot and senior Elise Spain added a layup in a bang-bang-bang 6-0 run to make it 20-6.
Then to open the second half, Imai attacked Chaminade’s defense off the dribble and twice found Davis for easy baskets, followed by senior Shannon Rousseau’s wide-open 3-pointer to cap a 7-0 run and extend the UHH lead to 49-23.
“When we spread the floor and move the ball, it opens up things for us,” Kaneshiro said. “I’m pleased with a lot of things that we did tonight, and I know we’re going to get better at it.”
Rousseau and senior Kirsty Imai, two other starters against Chaminade, added six and seven points, respectively, while sophomore Thea Hanato-Smith drained two 3-pointers and had three assists in 13 minutes of play.
Mata, a 5-6 guard out of Farrington High School, had one of the Vulcans’ plays of the game, attacking the Silverswords’ defense on a baseline drive, then spinning in a tough reverse layup to make it 83-49 with 5:14 remaining.
Rhani Kaneaiakala, a strong 5-9 senior forward, powered inside for 12 points to lead the Silverswords. She also had a game-high nine rebounds to go along with three assists. Freshman Sabrina Angle, a 5-3 guard, followed with 11 points, including 3 of 5 treys. Teammates Dianna Zane (5 assists) and Nikki Tauau each added nine points for Chaminade coach Bobby Keanini.
The Vulcans shot 48 percent (34 of 71) from the field, 39 percent (7 of 18) from 3-point range and 65 percent (15 of 23) from the free-throw line. The Silverswords hit 35 percent (18 of 52) from the floor, 27 percent (6 of 22) on treys and 70 percent (20 of 34) on free throws.
UHH also had 47 rebounds, 17 assists, 14 turnovers, 2 blocked shots and 14 steals compared to Chaminade’s 37, 12, 24, 1 and 4, respectively.
The cat-quick McDuffie and Shimizu each had three steals for the hosts while Davis, Rousseau and Kamie Imai had two steals apiece.
The Vulcans were also whistled for 25 fouls while the Silverswords had 18.
The Vulcans next play in the Oahu Classic, scheduled Thursday and Friday in Honolulu.
UHH takes on Minnesota State University Morehead at 2 p.m. Thursday and Shippensburg University at 4 p.m. Friday. Both games will be played at the McKinley High School Gym.
The Vulcans then battle Hawaii Pacific University in a nonconference game at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Moanalua High Gym.
At UHH Gym
CU 23 39 — 62
UHH 42 48 — 90