Rainbow Wahine open Big West title defense at UC Davis

Dec. 29—Three days remain on the 2022 calendar, but today marks a fresh start for the University of Hawaii women's basketball team.

Three days remain on the 2022 calendar, but today marks a fresh start for the University of Hawaii women's basketball team.

Coming off a challenging nonconference schedule and a brief holiday break, the Rainbow Wahine (2-7 ) open their Big West regular-season title defense today at UC Davis (4-6 ) in a game televised on Spectrum SportsNet.

"I think everyone's excited to get going again, " UH coach Laura Beeman said. "Obviously, our preseason didn't turn out quite the way we wanted as far as record goes. I think as we continue to move through the season the girls are going to really find the benefits of our preseason and what it did for us.

"Right now we're not looking backward, we're looking forward."

The Rainbow Wahine closed the nonconference slate with a 54-43 win at San Jose State 54-43 on Dec. 21. They dispersed for the Christmas weekend and regrouped back in Northern California on Monday. Having managed to avoid travel issues, they had their first complete post-holiday practice on Tuesday on the UC Davis campus.

"Travel is always scary this time of year, but so far so good, " Beeman said in a phone interview from Davis. "I think they showed up in good shape, good spirits, definitely had a good practice, so pretty excited about that."

After today's game at University Credit Union Center, the Wahine will continue perhaps the most challenging road trip, in terms of logistics, of the conference season with a 41 /2-hour bus ride to San Luis Obispo in advance of a New Year's Eve contest at Cal Poly (3-5 ) on Saturday.

UH and UC Davis have combined for seven of the last eight regular-season championships with UC Davis claiming five consecutive outright titles from the 2017 season to'21. UH topped the standings in 2015 and ended the Aggies' title streak with a 13-3 run last year.

Today's game will be UH's first in Davis since Jan. 11, 2020, and none of the current players participated in the 62-49 loss. Guard Olivia Davies is the only current UH player remaining from the 2019-20 roster and she redshirted that season.

The teams played a two-game series in Manoa in the truncated 2020-21 season and last season's meeting was canceled due to COVID health and safety protocols within the Aggies' program. UH rallied to a 57-50 home win in the lone matchup of the season.

UH features two guards averaging double-digit scoring in Daejah Phillips (11.9 ppg ) and Lily Wahinekapu (10.4 ). Wahinekapu also leads the team with 12 3-pointers. Forward Kallin Spiller ranks second in the conference with 8.2 rebounds per game while averaging 7.1 points.

UC Davis guard Evanne Turner led the Aggies with 16 points in last season's meeting with UH and enters conference play as the Big West's leading scorer at 16.9 points per game. The 5-foot-9 junior is shooting 41 % on her league-high 144 attempts and also leads the conference with 29 made 3-pointers.

Tova Sabel, a 5-11 guard, earned Big West player of the week honors on Monday after a 30-point performance in an 83-81 loss to Northern Arizona on Dec. 19. The transfer from Penn State averages 9.1 points per game.

"What they do is very unique offensively, " Beeman said. "They're big across the board, they have a really dynamic player and shooter in Evanne Turner. ... We have to have a nice game plan and we have to execute that game plan on both sides of the ball."