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Offensive Woes Plague UH-Hilo Against #17 APU

February 28, 2016, 9:11 AM HST
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Freshman Kim Schmelz drives against two Azusa Pacific defenders. UH-Hilo photo.

Freshman Kim Schmelz drives against two Azusa Pacific defenders. UH-Hilo photo.

A streaky offense has been a make or break characteristic for the University of Hawai’i at Hilo all season long, and it showed up again on Saturday night against nationally-ranked Azusa Pacific University.

In its biggest game of the season, UH-Hilo was held to just 37.8 percent shooting, and its defense couldn’t hold up enough to fend off Azusa Pacific. The Vulcans fell 64-47 to the Cougars, the 17th ranked team in the USA Today Division II Women’s Basketball Coaches Poll.

Regardless of the result, UH-Hilo would have been eliminated from postseason contention. The Vulcans needed to win and get a victory from Chaminade over Point Loma Nazarene in a game that was happening simultaneously with the Vulcans’ matchup. Point Loma, trailing for much of the game, surged ahead with less than two minutes remaining to push away the Silverswords to claim the sixth seed in next week’s PacWest Conference tournament.

Azusa Pacific (25-3, 19-1 PacWest) claimed a share of the conference championship with California Baptist. A lengthy tiebreak scenario leaves the top seed for next week’s conference tournament up in the air until the regional rankings are released on Wednesday. The team with the highest regional placement will get the top seed in the tourney, held on the campus of Concordia University in Irvine, Calif.

“I thought all game long, we played hard,” said sixth-year UH-Hilo coach David Kaneshiro. “We didn’t do a good job, especially at certain times, keeping them off the offensive glass, but we knew that would be a big part of the game.”

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In the first quarter, UH-Hilo’s offense looked like the one that opened up Tuesday’s game with Point Loma Nazarene on a 17-0 run. Guards were confidently shooting from the perimeter, and both teams were trading baskets and keeping the game close.

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The flourishing offense didn’t last much longer. Leading by two with just over seven minutes remaining in the half, UH-Hilo (10-15, 10-10) struggled to make shots. The Vulcans closed out the half shooting 0-for-7 from the floor with just one free throw made in that stretch. Add five turnovers to that mix, and that allowed Azusa Pacific to close out the first half on a 9-1 run, taking a 28-22 lead into the locker room.

“When we were down six at half, I thought we didn’t attack their press very well, and that if we had done a better job, it would be a little bit different,” Kaneshiro explained. “We didn’t score well in the second quarter.”

With the game too close for comfort going into the final two quarters, Azusa Pacific senior Kelly Hardemann took the game over. Foul trouble plagued her in the first half, holding her to just seven points. She broke the game open in the second half with 18 points in the final 20 minutes.

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The other adjustment Azusa Pacific made was an emphasis on interior play, forcing its size and length on the UH-Hilo defense. The Cougars scored a total of 38 points in the paint to the Vulcans’ 18, making up for a rough shooting performance from beyond the arc and from the free throw line. APU shot 3-for-17 from three-point range and 5-for-14 from the charity stripe, two places where the Cougars ranked near the top in the conference entering Saturday’s game.

Three seniors made their final appearance in a UH-Hilo uniform. Felicia Kolb, arguably the team’s most improved player, fouled out in a five-point, four-rebound performance. Guard Alia Alvarez scored two points in nine minutes, and Ashley Duyao, a sparsely-used guard from Gardena, Calif., played just two minutes.

Junior Vanessa Mancera led UH-Hilo with 15 points, but committed eight of the Vulcans’ 23 turnovers.

Azusa Pacific 15 13 19 17 – 64

Hawai’i-Hilo 15 7 10 15 – 47

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