By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
After winning four emotional conference games on the road, the University of Hawaii at Hilo women’s basketball team carried that wave of momentum across the ocean back home.
The Vulcans put a beatdown on the Seasiders 67-36 Saturday before 508 fans at UHH Gym to continue their hot play in the Pacific West Conference, winning their sixth straight game.
Kamie Imai scored 19 points on 9 of 15 shooting and did a lot of board work with 12 rebounds to lead four players in double-digit scoring for UHH (10-6, 7-3 PacWest), which shined in the ball-handling department with 17 assists against just 14 turnovers.
Jameia McDuffie added 15 points and was even better from the field, going 7 of 10, while the bench provided strong play as Jazzmyn Davis chipped in 12 points on 6 of 12 shooting, and Natalie Mata scored 10 points.
Brydgette Tatupu-Leopoldo scored nine points and Shayla Washington had eight points on 2 of 11 shooting with nine boards for the Seasiders (4-11, 3-6), who struggled in so many areas it’s a toss-up to picking the most harmful.
Perhaps, it’s their shooting (14 of 53 for 26 percent) or their ball-handling (one assist against 21 turnovers) or maybe their free-throw shooting (7 of 14). BYUH, which is bigger and taller than UHH, also had the indignity of being outrebounded, 44-38.
It all added up to a blowout and got worse as the game went on.
“I liked our consistency. We played hard all the way through and had a good defensive effort,” UHH coach David Kaneshiro said. “We did a nice job in transition, and that was one of our better half-court offensive games. We moved the ball pretty well. I’m happy coming off a long road trip. It was a good, solid win.”
In the first half, BYUH, which allows 79.4 points per game, lived up to its status as the conference’s second-worst defensive team, allowing UHH’s 3-point shooters open looks (however, they missed a lot and went 3 for 13) and Imai free range in the paint.
Imai carved up BYUH’s 2-3 zone, sticking jumpers at the elbows and going 6 of 9 from the field for 12 points. That helped boost the Vuls’ team shooting to 43 percent from the field; the Seasiders threw up bricks and went 5 of 27 or 19 percent on field goals, a good reason they trailed 29-15 at halftime.
Meanwhile, UHH’s tag-team of Davis, Imai and several others did a defensive number on Washington, who entered the game with a conference-leading 20.1 ppg and a second-best 11.6 rebounds per game. She had five points on 1 of 6 shooting, but compensated with seven rebounds; Washington finished with nine boards.
McDuffie, Kirsten Shimizu and Shannon Rousseau hit 3-pointers while BYUH was stuck in an early shooting slump to seize a 15-1 lead. The Seasiders didn’t get their first field goal until 10:37, when Briana Jessop scored on a putback, making it 19-5.
Then the second half started and McDuffie caught fire, scoring 10 quick points to push UHH’s cushion to 42-20 with 12:20 remaining. Among her scoring spree, included two putbacks for the senior guard, who’s all of 5 feet 2, inches.
Davis had a bit of scoring fun at the expense of Washington. The 5-10 UHH junior forward, an inch taller than Washington, stuck a jumper in her face. On the ensuing possession, Imai rebounded, fed Davis on the run, and she dropped in a layup for a 50-24 lead with 7:07 left — the transition game of rebounding, running and scoring that Kaneshiro talked about.
Rousseau drained UHH’s first 3-pointer in the second half for the biggest lead, 59-30, with 4:10 remaining. From there it was mop-up minutes for everyone and a countdown to celebrating another conference victory.
BYUH 15 21 — 36
UHH 29 38 — 67