U women B-ball are in island paradise for Rainbow Classic

The U women’s basketball team (1-1) is in Hawaii this week for the 26th Annual Hawaiian Airlines Rainbow Classic hosted by the University of Hawaii. The tournament does not officially begin until Friday, Nov. 26.

Having already faced No. 7 Stanford in their first game of the season, the Utes tough non-conference schedule will continue when they open play in the three-round, eight-team tournament with a game against No. 13 Michigan State (2-0) at 2:50 p.m. Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time. (5:50 p.m. MST)

Though the Utes ultimately lost their season opener to Stanford, U head coach Elaine Elliott was encouraged by her team’s effort. She said that her team will need the confidence that they can play with top ranked teams if they are to make it through their non-conference schedule with some degree of success.

The Utes have one of the most difficult non-conference schedules in the country this year. The Utes’ triptych is likely to be even harder if they win their first two games in the tournament, because they would likely face No. 3 Georgia in the championship game.

Although a championship game against Georgia is something the Utes would love to be a part of, they will have to first defeat Michigan State. With one tournament victory already to their credit this season, Michigan State is a program on the rise. Coached by Joanne McCallie, the Spartans have qualified for the NCAA Tournament two years in a row now. They completed their first 20-win season in nearly a decade last year and finished as one of the top teams in the Big-10.

The Spartans are on a roll this year, too. They won their first two games of this season, but both victories came in drastically different fashion. The first game was a blowout against Central Connecticut. The second game, the final game of the Spartan Classic basketball tournament, however, turned into an overtime thriller against then-No. 18 Boston College.

Led by senior guard Kristin Haynie, the Spartan Classic Tournament MVP, Michigan State is loaded with talent. Haynie scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds against Boston College, but her most impressive stat is the 11 steals she has already compiled in just two games. While Haynie is the clear-cut leader, her teammates are pretty good, too. Three other Spartans are already averaging double-digit point totals. Most notable is the play of junior Liz Shimek, whose 17.5-point average is tops on the team.

Should the Utes defeat the Spartans, they will face a much easier opponent in the second round. They will play either Hawaii (0-0) or Santa Clara (0-1), depending on the outcome of their first round game. Santa Clara was picked to finish fifth in the West Coast Conference this season, while Hawaii was picked to finish eighth in the Western Athletic Conference. Both teams struggled last season.

Playing in the opposite bracket is California, Idaho, Texas Christian, and the aforementioned, highly ranked Georgia. The tournament will conclude Sunday evening with the championship game.

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