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Slow Start Dooms Vulcans Against Nanooks

November 21, 2015, 5:44 PM HST
* Updated November 21, 5:48 PM
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It has been an early struggle for the University of Hawai’i at Hilo women’s basketball team, who is trying to find an identity without its best player, Alexa Jacobs, who remains out with a lingering knee injury.

In two games against the seventh-ranked Alaska Anchorage Seawolves, UH-Hilo found a way to stay close in each opening quarter, despite turnovers and cold shooting. On Saturday afternoon against University of Alaska, a lethargic start opened the flood gates early for the Nanooks, and the Vulcans couldn’t claw back.

Alaska (3-2) defeated UH-Hilo 87-55 in front of a small crowd at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium.

How bad was the start? Alaska opened on a 14-0 run over the first 3:10 of the game. UH-Hilo turned the ball over four times in that stretch and took only one shot. Additionally, the Nanooks were hungrier in grabbing rebounds, snatching the first five boards of the contest.

“They played with a lot more energy in the first half and really took it to us,” said UH-Hilo head coach David Kaneshiro about his team’s opponent. “The outcome wasn’t in doubt from that point on, but we talked about it at halftime that we needed to step up and show some heart, some toughness.”

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UH-Hilo (0-2) ultimately got on the board, but couldn’t figure out how to matchup against Alaska’s two best forwards, All-Great Northwest Athletic Conference preseason selection Jordan Wilson and Stephanie Toumson. The frontcourt duo combined for 34 points and 10 rebounds in the first 20 minutes alone, leading the Nanooks to 30 points in the paint in the first half and a 50-23 lead at the intermission.

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“They played to their strength,” said Kaneshiro. “They really took it to us early in the game.”

There is usually a way to find the light at the end of a disappointing loss, though. Kaneshiro seemed to find that in his team’s second half performance.

“That was definitely a whole lot better, and it was all about energy, toughness, grit,” Kaneshiro explained. “We played with some heart in the second half.”

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For the second straight game, freshman guard Kim Schmelz led UH-Hilo in the point column with 16 points. She was 5-for-10 from the floor and grabbed four rebounds. Senior reserve Alia Alvarez, who played just two games last season, followed with nine points.

The afternoon, however, belonged to Alaska’s dominant post players. Despite second half foul trouble and an improved UH-Hilo defense, Wilson and Toumson finished with impressive numbers. Wilson was a perfect 11-for-11 from the field and finished with 23 points, while Toumson, in her second year with the Nanooks, tallied game highs with 25 points and nine rebounds.

McClain Williams added 10 points off of the bench for Alaska with a pair of treys. The Nanooks shot 56 percent from the floor and out-rebounded UH-Hilo 41-34.

UH-Hilo put together its best shooting performance of the season, hitting 18 of its 57 shots for a 31.6 percent clip. The Vulcans also went to the free throw line 23 times, hitting 17 of their shots.

Next up for UH-Hilo is a pair of games in the Oahu Classic next week. The Vulcans will face Armstrong State at St. Francis High School on Thanksgiving Day at 2 p.m., then wake up and head to the Canon Activities Center in Laie to go up against Emporia State at 9 a.m.

Alaska 30 20 22 15 – 87

Hawai’i-Hilo 14 9 19 13 – 55

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