A storybook start to the 2018-19 season was within reach for Hawaii.
Instead, Pepperdine stole the copyright in the final seconds with a tough 3-pointer and a 65-64 road victory at the Stan Sheriff Center on Tuesday night.
UH, coming off consecutive 12-18 seasons, lost its third straight opener. It was the first time the Wahine opened at home in Laura Beeman’s seven years as coach.
Twenty-one turnovers prevented the Wahine from separating from the Waves and it was back and forth throughout the fourth quarter.
Kenna Woodfolk’s free throws made it 64-62 UH with a minute and change left. But she missed a layup the next trip down for a chance to build the lead.
Pepperdine called timeout with 15.2 seconds left. Paige Fecske went baseline and around a screen and hit a difficult curling 3 for a 65-64 lead with 10 seconds left. Fecske scored a game-high 22 points on 7-for-21 shooting.
UH called timeout to set up a play and advance the ball with 9.8 seconds left. Savannah Reier, a Wahine newcomer out of Shelton State (Ala.) Community College, was short on a leaning mid-range jumper with a few seconds left and the Wahine could not corral the rebound for a second shot.
Pepperdine, 10-20 a season ago, was picked to finish ninth of 10 teams in the West Coast Conference. After the final horn, the Waves celebrated loudly at midcourt.
Woodfolk, a junior forward, led UH with 18 points on 5-for-11 shooting and junior guard Courtney Middap had a career high of 14 points. Point guard Tia Kanoa added 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting.
The Wahine trailed 16-13 after a quarter but turned up their defensive pressure, sometimes pressing fullcourt, to claim the lead.
Kanoa recorded her first career block, stuffing Fecske to force a shot-clock violation in the third.
The Wahine hit 25 of 29 of their free-throw attempts (86.2 percent), with Middap making all eight and Woodfolk all seven. But turnovers kept it close; Middap had seven and Woodfolk five.
UH led by two after the second and third periods. Pepperdine scored in transition to go up early in the fourth.
Reier forced a turnover and Leah Salanoa found Woodfolk in the corner for a 3 and a 57-55 lead with six minutes left.
Julissa Tago put her team back up a pair with a jumper with 4:30 to go, answered by one from Fecske.
Fecske then hit a deep 3 to beat the shot clock for a 62-59 lead. Middap responded with a corner trey to tie it back up and give her a career-high 14.
The Wahine were without Lahni Salanoa and Amy Atwell, their Nos. 3 and 5 scorers among returning players, while they recover from preseason injuries.
UH departs today for road games at San Diego State and San Diego on Friday and Sunday.
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