By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sport writer
It was close at one point, something like 29-29 in a sluggish snail’s race early into the second half, then the University of Hawaii at Hilo women’s basketball team started shooting 3-pointers and enough went in.
Behind a small barrage of long-distance bombs, the Vulcans took care of business, outrunning and outworking Notre Dame de Namur 73-58 on Thursday to earn their first Pacific West Conference win before 372 fans at UHH Gym.
The Vuls (4-5, 1-2 PacWest) tomato-can kicked the Argonauts (1-10, 0-3), one of the weaker sisters in the conference, but nonetheless it was a good way to ring in the new year, after shaking off 16 days of rust. The home team led by as much as 20 points in the second half and emptied the bench late.
Up next is another opportunity to ruin another visiting team’s long plane ride over to the island, with Dominican (2-8, 1-1) on deck Saturday.
Kirsty Imai scored 19 points on 7 of 15 shooting, including 3 of 8 from beyond the arc, to lead the Vuls, who were supplemented by Jameia McDuffie’s 13 points. She had a fairly accurate shooting night, going 5 of 11 from the field, including 3 of 4 on 3-pointers.
Imai, a senior, picked up the scoring slack from her sister, Kamie, who leads the team with 13 points per game. The younger Imai had four points, and was often breathing into the face of Charnisha Bradley, who’s 5 feet 11, two inches taller and equally fleet of foot.
Still, when Kamie Imai doesn’t bust out in scoring she still contributes. She had a game-high seven rebounds, despite giving up height and going against 6-foot Trisha Malaspina, a much bigger presence in the post.
Meanwhile, Kirsty Imai also made unsung contributions that pulled the plug on NDNU’s momentum, which often disappeared for long coffee breaks.
Take for instance early in the second half. She hustles down the court, sets her feet and takes a charge. UHH gets the ball back, Kirsten Shimizu drains a 3-pointer on the other end, and it’s 39-29, home team ahead and steaming forward.
Malaspina scored 14 points to lead the Argonauts, who dropped their ninth straight. Taylor Dewees added 11 points, misfired often, going 3 of 7 from the field while being guarded by Kirsty Imai and later Shannon Rousseau.
“The first half we were a little sluggish, but that was both teams,” said UHH coach David Kaneshiro, who considers Dewees one of the better shooters in the PacWest. “In the second half, we picked things up, shot better (53 percent from the field) and got stops, which helped our transition game.”
Even the few times the Vuls missed layups, they hustled back and fought for rebounds, scoring short cutbacks to pump up their team shooting, which stood at 41.7 percent, the same as the Argos. One big difference: 9 of 24 from 3-point land is categorically better than 2 of 6, NDNU’s sparse stat.
Still, 24 attempts from long distance is a lot. The perimeter work meant limited time at the free throw line (4 of 5) and a chance to stick fouls on the Argos, who went 16 of 23 from the line and tried to muscle points at every opportunity.
“Early in the second half, we settled for too many 3s, and 37.5 percent is pretty good, but that’s not us,” Kaneshiro said. “That’s a little too many and we have to work on moving the ball more. It was a solid performance after the break. That’s good that we got the win. We were 0-2 and we knew it. We’re definitely happy with the win.”
At UHH Gym
NDNU 27 31 — 58
UHH 29 44 — 73
Micah Dunhour scored 15 points, Wesley White 12 and Eric Bell and Johnny Hutton 11 apiece to lead Notre Dame de Namur to a 64-60 win over UHH in the late game.
The visiting Argonauts (3-8 overall, 2-1 PacWest) trailed 36-26 at the intermission before outscoring the Vulcans (2-9, 0-3) 38-24 in the second half.
“We had a really good first half playing team basketball,” UHH coach Jeff Law said. “But in the second half we started playing selfishly and just kept putting up poor shots. I’m really disappointed in how we played in the second half and it’s on me and the seniors.”
Senior Kiel Myers led the Vulcans with 15 points, shooting 6 of 14 from the field, including 1 of 7 on 3-pointers, and went 2 for 2 from the free-throw line. Senior guard CJ Brown had 12 points, hitting 4 of 12 field goals, including 2 of 5 treys, and 2 for 2 free throws. Senior Paul Batausa added 11 points, making 4 of 7 field goals, including 3 of 6 treys.
Dunhour, a 6-foot-6 forward and former Honokaa High and AOP standout, made 4 of 9 field goals, including 2 of 3 treys, and 5 of 7 free throws for his team-high 15 points. He also had eight rebounds in a solid all-around performance. Teammate White had a game-high nine rebounds.
NDNU shot 48 percent (22 of 46) from the floor, 33 percent (4 of 12) on 3-pointers and 73 percent (16 of 22) on free throws. UHH hit 38 percent (21 of 56) from the field, 32 percent (8 of 25) on treys and 77 percent (10 of 13) from the line.
The Argonauts also had 34 rebounds, 12 assists, 13 turnovers, 2 blocked shots and 5 steals compared to the Vulcans’ 30, 10, 11, 2 and 7, respectively.
The UHH teams host Dominican University (Calif.) in PacWest action Saturday at UHH Gym. The women play at 5 p.m. and the men at 7:30 p.m.
At UHH Gym
NDNU 26 38 — 64
UHH 36 24 — 60