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Rainbow Wahine plan to have big bash waiting for Gauchos

Feb. 17—With tonight's game billed as "Beeman's Big Bash, " the Rainbow Wahine are hoping for not only the largest crowd of the season, but maybe of Beeman's entire 12-year tenure as head coach.

Last season ended for the Hawaii women's basketball team in a gym filled with more than 8, 600 people in Baton Rouge, La.

It was an environment and an experience unlike any other for the two-time defending Big West champions.

Eleven players returned from that team, which lost to eventual national champion LSU, and while tonight's home game against UC Santa Barbara isn't the NCAA Tournament, it's an opportunity to create that same electric atmosphere inside of SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center.

With tonight's game billed as "Beeman's Big Bash, " the Rainbow Wahine are hoping for not only the largest crowd of the season, but maybe of Beeman's entire 12-year tenure as head coach.

Hawaii will be wearing special jerseys for the occasion. As of 1 p.m. on Friday, 3, 555 tickets had been sold. The single-game attendance record for a Hawaii women's basketball home game is 6, 004, set Feb. 14, 1998, against SMU.

The record under Beeman is 3, 491 for the regular-season home finale in 2015 in Beeman's third year with the program.

"For these young women, they have been working hard, and to have the opportunity to play in front of a really big crowd, with an electric energy, the chants of 'defense, ' the sixth-man mentality, the boos from the crowd and everything else you get in a big time college environment, that's what I'm hoping shows up here on Saturday night, " Beeman said after Thursday's win over Cal Poly. "I think it will be more than pushing us to win a win. I think it's also really committing to this team and what they have done over the last two seasons to say, 'Hey, we'd love to support you and we want to show up for ya.' "

The Gauchos are the perfect opponent to build the event around, as UCSB trails Hawaii by one game and already owns a 65-53 victory over the Rainbow Wahine in California last month.

Only two teams will qualify for the double bye in the Big West tournament, with the Rainbow Wahine (11-3 ), UC Irvine (10-3 ) and UC Santa Barbara (10-4 ) all in position to claim one of those spots.

It's also a rematch of last season's Big West tournament championship game that Hawaii won on a go-ahead and-1 basket by Daejah Phillips in the final four seconds.

"I think for us, me personally, I'm looking for redemption, " junior MeiLani McBee said Thursday after scoring 12 of her season-high 21 points in the fourth quarter of the win over the Mustangs. "We didn't want to lose earlier on this season to them. Now that we get to play them on our home court in front of a bunch of people, it's going to be fun."

Hawaii has won all seven Big West home games this season and eight straight overall. Its winning streak at home in conference play is 10 dating back to last year.

Hawaii beat the Gauchos by 10 to close the regular season a year ago before beating them for the tournament title seven days later.

UCSB's Alexis Whitfield had 23 points and 19 rebounds as the Gauchos dominated Hawaii from the start earlier this season and led by as many as 22 in the win.

"We haven't lost on our home court, " McBee said. "We're not looking at first place, second place. I think we're just looking at defending home court."