The second half Saturday perhaps told the story of the entire road trip.
The University of Hawaii at Hilo battled, valiantly at times in coach David Kaneshiro’s eyes, before falling short, 66-58 to Fresno Pacific in Fresno, Calif.
Set to head home after a 1-3 trip, Kaneshiro vowed that his team was close to figuring things out for the stretch run.
“We’re not far away,” he said. “I’m really confident in what we’re doing.”
The Vulcans (6-9, 5-6 Pacific West Conference) got another solid outing from McKenzie Mangino, who scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Kamie Imai added 13 points and 10 rebounds, including two free throws with 4:03 left in the game to give UH-Hilo a 56-55 lead.
But the Sunbirds (6-11, 6-5) finished the game on an 11-2 run, dropping the Vulcans into a tie for eighth in the PacWest.
“The ladies played hard and stuck together,” Kaneshiro said. “Fresno Pacific just played made a few more plays.”
Jenay Herring led the Sunbirds with 20 points and Patrice Saindon added 16.
The Vulcans led by three at halftime, but Fresno Pacific stormed ahead with a 22-9 lead.
UH-Hilo’s Kirstie Williams had a tough day shooting, finishing 2 of 12 overall and 1 of 9 from 3-point range.
The Vulcans shot 37 percent, while Fresno Pacific made 41.8 percent of its shots.
Fresno Pacific 88, UH-Hilo 86
Trevon Clayton scored 23 points, including five free throws in the final 20 seconds, to lift the Sunbirds (7-12 overall, 2-9 PacWest) over the visiting Vulcans (3-14, 0-11).
Johnell Thompson followed Clayton with 19 points, while Jackson Carbajal had 12 and Malcolm Griffin 10 plus 11 assists for FPU.
Senior guard Derek Owens led UH-Hilo with 22 points, hitting 8 of 10 field goals, including 3 of 4 treys, and 3 of 3 free throws. Junior Joey Rodriguez had 21 points, including five free throws in the final 13 seconds to keep the Vulcans within striking distance of their first PacWest win this season. Rodriguez also had a season-high nine assists.
Senior Lucas Swanson (3 3-pointers) had 17 points and junior Darnell Williams added 16 points.
The Vulcans led 44-39 at the intermission before the Sunbirds outscored them 49-42 in the second half.
The teams combined to make 19 3-pointers in the game — UH-Hilo was 10 of 23 and FPU 9 of 21. The Sunbirds held a 34-25 rebounding advantage.
The UH-Hilo men and women host California Baptist on Thursday night. The women play at 5 p.m., followed by the men’s game at 7:30 p.m.