The Long Beach State women’s basketball team showed once again why its defense is a force to be reckoned with, beating Hawai’i 62-55 behind a team-first approach at the Walter Pyramid Thursday.
The Beach (8-10, 3-2 Big West) began the game with a defensive intensity that clearly caught the Rainbow Wahine (8-10, 2-3 Big West) off guard, forcing them into shooting a paltry 23.5% from the field in the first half.
“When we see that we’re holding teams to five points in the first quarter and 15 in the second quarter,” sophomore forward Jasmine Hardy said, “it just motivates us more to keep going and keep defending. Just keep working hard and don’t stop.”
The Beach employed an array of different defensive schemes, from a 3-2 zone to basic man defense, which forced Hawai’i into difficult shots and tight passing lanes all night.
“The buy-in, is I think they see that it’s productive and they see how efficient and effective it can be if we do it the right way,” head coach Jeff Cammon said. “Normally, when you do different things it’s hard to be good at one thing, and that’s why we try to spend a lot of time with our principles and watching film and having dialogue.”
In addition to the many charges and loose-balls fought for in the first half, junior guard Shanaijah Davison deposited a deep step-back three-point bank-shot as the buzzer sounded to bring the crowd to its feet.
“I’ll take Shanaijah’s toughness,” Cammon said. “She’s not afraid to get on the floor for loose-balls, she’s not afraid to take a charge … and she’s not afraid to take a big shot … I like the fact that she’s not afraid to make the big play.”
Although Hawai’i was able to find its rhythm once the third quarter began, sophomore guard Justina King and Davison continued to apply pressure, pushing in transition and picking apart Hawai’i’s rotations in the halfcourt.
The Rainbow Wahine began to mount their comeback behind senior guard Savannah Reier, who knocked down two big three-pointers during an 11-4 run for Hawai’i, bringing the game as close as 54-48 with 42 seconds remaining.
As time began to tick closer and closer to the final buzzer sounding, the Rainbow Wahine were forced to play the foul game to extend the clock as Hardy calmly canned 10 out of her perfect 12-for-12 night at the charity stripe within the waning seconds.
“I just think about all the times I’ve practiced shooting free throws just at home, here,” Hardy said. “Just trying to do the same thing every time helps me.”
Although the Beach almost matched Hawai’i’s poor shooting performance on the night, 35.2% and 34.8%, the overall fight and desire to win was the determining factor for the win according to Cammon.
“It’s part of our culture here at Long Beach,” Cammon said. “It’s expected to win the loose-ball game and to be able to do the intangible things and they don’t show up in the stat sheet … but we tell them it’s not about that, everyone’s valued and effort and being a good teammate are non-negotiables and our young ladies have definitely bought into that philosophy.”
Long Beach will travel to the Bren Events Center to take on UC Irvine Jan. 25 at 2 p.m.