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Rainbow Wahine extend hot Big West start to 4-0

Jan. 12—The target on the back of the two-time defending Big West champion Hawaii women's basketball team just got even bigger.

The Rainbow Wahine cemented their place at the top of the conference with a 56-49 win over UC Irvine on Thursday night at Bren Events Center in Irvine, Calif.

Sophomore forward Imani Perez scored a career- high 17 points on perfect 7-for-7 shooting from the field and added nine rebounds and two blocks to help the Rainbow Wahine (7-6, 4-0) hand the Anteaters (9-5, 3-2) their first home loss of the season.

Lily Wahinekapu finished with 10 points, five rebounds and four assists and MeiLani McBee nailed three big 3-pointers in the second half to keep Hawaii as the only undefeated team in conference play.

UC Irvine, which had won 21 of its previous 23 home games, beat UH both times in the regular season last year on its way to earning the No. 1 seed in the Big West tournament.

Hawaii's previous win over the Anteaters was in the 2022 Big West tournament finale.

"It's big. They are a very, very good team," said Hawaii coach Laura Beeman, who is 4-0 to start Big West play for the first time in her tenure. "This is a huge road win for this team against a very good Irvine team."

Hawaii held its fourth consecutive opponent to fewer than 50 points and overcame a shaky first quarter.

UH trailed 14-9 after the first 10 minutes as UC Irvine had six steals, but controlled the game most of the way after.

Hawaii held UC Irvine to four points in the second quarter and scored all five of its field goals on layups, attacking the Anteaters' full-court pressure.

Perez had six of her game-high points in the third quarter on two made 3s as Hawaii handled UC Irvine's pressure the best it had all game.

UH made just one turnover and outscored UC Irvine 23-16 to take a 43-34 lead into the final 10 minutes.

Wahinekapu assisted on three of Hawaii's six field goals in the third quarter and McBee hit two 3-pointers, including a four-point play on her second one after she was fouled, to give UH a nine-point cushion.

"Not letting them speed it up on us was important, because there were times we let them speed it up and we went through a little bit of a lull there, but we got ourselves out of it," Perez said. "Today was definitely more of a patient day for me. I think my teammates really did help me tonight. They were the ones that made it possible for me to get open and the big part was rebound again, which happened to be in my favor for cutbacks and points."

Hawaii outrebounded UC Irvine 38-36, with fellow post player Brooklyn Rewers matching Perez's nine rebounds.

McBee's third 3-pointer of the game with 3:37 remaining matched Hawaii's largest lead at 54-43.

UC Irvine got a couple of late baskets off turnovers late when the game was already out of hand.

UH will finish its road trip on Saturday at UC Riverside, which beat Cal Poly on Thursday to improve to 7-8 overall and 2-3 in conference.

BIG WEST WOMEN

Conference Overall

W L Pct. GB W L

Hawaii 4 0 1.000 — 7 6

UCSB 4 1 .800 1/2 10 5

UC San Diego 3 1 .750 1 7 8

UC Irvine 3 2 .600 1 1/2 9 6

Cal Poly 3 2 .600 1 1/2 7 8

UC Davis 3 2 .600 1 1/2 7 8

UC Riverside 2 3 .400 2 1/2 7 8

CS Fullerton 1 3 .250 3 5 9

CSU Bakersfield 1 3 .250 3 4 9

Long Beach St. 1 4 .200 3 1/2 6 9

CS Northridge 0 4 .000 4 2 12

Thursday

Hawaii 56, UC Irvine 49

UC Davis 55, CS Northridge 45

UC Riverside 64, Cal Poly 53

UC Santa Barbara 75, Cal State Bakersfield

54

UC San Diego 45. Long Beach State 30

Saturday

Hawaii at UC Riverside, 3 p.m.

UC Davis at Cal State Bakersfield

Cal Poly at UC San Diego

UC Santa Barbara at Long Beach State

CS Northridge at Cal State Fullerton

HAWAII 56, UC IRVINE 49

RAINBOW WAHINE (7-6, 4-0)

MIN FG-A FT-A R A PF PTS

Perez 31 7-7 0-0 9 1 2 17

McBee 31 3-6 3-3 1 1 3 12

Wahinekapu 30 5-10 0-1 5 4 3 10

Davies 12 1-3 2-2 1 1 0 4

Rewers 32 1-9 0-0 9 1 2 2

Phillips 31 2-6 4-4 5 0 2 8

Imai 16 1-8 0-2 2 1 1 2

Thoms 11 0-0 1-2 0 0 0 1

Peacock 5 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Berrett 1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

TEAM 6

TOTALS 200 20-49 10-14 38 9 13 56

ANTEATERS (9-6, 3-2)

MIN FG-A FT-A R A PF PTS

Lee 34 7-18 0-0 5 9 4 15

Konate 26 6-10 0-0 4 0 2 12

Tom 34 1-6 2-2 4 2 0 5

Dean 16 0-3 0-0 3 0 0 0

Djoko 8 0-4 0-0 0 0 0 0

Parkinson 21 2-5 2-3 8 0 3 6

Nahum 26 2-8 0-0 2 0 2 5

Johnson Sidi Baba 13 1-5 0-0 4 0 3 2

Scharpf 12 1-2 0-0 1 0 1 2

Kaupu 10 1-2 0-0 1 0 1 2

TEAM 4

TOTALS 200 21-63 4-5 36 11 16 49

Key — min: minutes played; fg-a: field goals

made-attempted; ft-a: free throws made-attempted;

r: rebounds; a: assists; pf: personal

fouls; pts: total points.

Score By Period

Hawaii 9 11 23 13 — 56

UC Irvine 14 4 16 15 — 49

3-point goals — Hawaii 6-15 (Perez 3-3,

McBee 3-6, Wahinekapu 0-1, Phillips 0-1,

Imai 0-1, Rewers 0-3). UC Irvine 3-24 (Nahum

1-4, Tom 1-5, Lee 1-8, Dean 0-1,

Konate 0-2, Djoko 0-2, Johnson Sidi Baba

0-2). Steals — Hawaii 4 (Wahinekapu 2,

Peacock, Rewers). UC Irvine 14 (Lee 5,

Konate 3, Dean 2, Scharpf, Johnson Sidi

Baba, Nahum, Tom). Blocked shots — Hawaii

4 (Perez 2, Rewers, McBee). UC Irvine

6 (Dean 2, Tom 2, Parkinson, Djoko). Turnovers

— Hawaii 18 (Phillips 5, Perez 4, Rewers

4, Davies 2, Imai 2, Wahinekapu). UC

Irvine 10 (Parkinson 4, Konate 3, Dean,

Lee, Johnson Sidi Baba). Technical fouls

— none. Officials — Kapua Nakasone,

Deon Lewis, Kyle Bacon. A — 640.