The University of Hawaiʻi women’s basketball team stayed within striking distance throughout the first half, led by Big West Conference Player of the Year Amy Atwell. But multiple scoring runs by the Baylor Bears in the second half proved too much as the No. 15 seed Rainbow Wahine fell to the No. 2 seed and national title contender on their home court in Waco, Texas, 89-49. The loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament ended UH’s season with a 20-10 record. The Bears improved to 28-6 and will play No. 10 seed South Dakota in the second round.
Graduate forward Atwell led the Big West regular season and tournament champions with 29 points, going 8-for-20 from the field and 6-for-15 from the 3-point line. Atwell also added 13 rebounds.
Atwell, the program’s career leader in 3-pointers made, drained two shots from beyond the arc early in the game to put the Rainbow Wahine up 6-2. The Big 12 runner up countered with six unanswered points to take an 8-6 lead midway through the first quarter. Freshman forward Nnenna Orji added four points late in the first to hold Baylor to a 16-12 lead at the end of the quarter.
Baylor stormed out of the gates in the second quarter, opening with a 6-point run to go up by 10 forcing the Rainbow Wahine to call an early timeout. Atwell added a 3-pointer and three free throws to close the gap to six with just under six minutes to play in the quarter. However, a quick pair of transition buckets put the Bears up nine with less than four minutes, and Baylor maintained that lead at 38-29 going into halftime. Atwell poured in 20 points in the first half, going 4-for-7 from beyond the arc and 6-for-6 at the free throw line.
In the third quarter, the Bears proved why they had won 66 of their last 69 at home, jumping out to a 49-32 lead on an 11-3 run. Baylor stepped on the gas on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball, putting 34 points on the board in the quarter while holding the Rainbow Wahine to just eight. Baylor took a commanding 72-37 lead with 10 minutes left in the contest.
A pair of field goals by Kallin Spiller was a bright spot for the Rainbow Wahine early in the fourth quarter. The graduate forward ended the game with 10 points and seven rebounds. Atwell attacked the Baylor defense, draining another 3-pointer and going hard to the basket, drawing the and-1 foul and converting the 3-point play with 3:22 left in the game. The Bears outscored the Rainbow Wahine 17-12 in the quarter, taking the game, 89-49.
Rainbow Wahine in the NCAA Tournament
This was UH’s seventh appearance in the NCAA tournament, the last coming in 2016 when the No. 14 seed ‘Bows fell to No. 3 seed UCLA, 66-50. The Rainbow Wahine are now 1-7 all-time with their lone win coming in 1990 as the No. 9 seed, defeating No. 8 seed Montana, 83-78.
It may have felt like a home game of sorts for the Rainbow Wahine. UH’s SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center was built and modeled after Baylor’s arena, the Ferrell Center. The Stan Sheriff Center was built in 1994, six years after the Ferrell Center, by the same company. Their seating capacities are nearly identical—10,300 for SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center and 10,385 for the Ferrell Center.
For more, visit the UH Mānoa Athletics website.
—By Marc Arakaki