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San Diego beats Hawaii in semifinal

March 8, 1997

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ Jodi Nowlin-Tres and Sandy Wright scored 20 points each and San Diego State held Hawaii without a point for nearly 10 minutes Friday as the Aztecs defeated the Rainbow Wahini 74-48 in a Western Athletic Conference tournament semifinal.

Wright had seven assists and five steals for SDSU (22-6), which plays the winner of the Utah-Southern Methodist winner for the WAC championship on Saturday.

SDSU has won 10 straight and 17 of 18. The victory was the second in three games against Hawaii this season.

The Aztecs, who came in allowing a nation-low 51.1 points per game on average, held Hawaii (21-8) scoreless for the opening 9:47 of the second half.

During that stretch, Hawaii was outscored 17-0.

Raylene Howard’s 3-pointer ended the drought, but by then Hawaii was trailing 54-30.

``You certainly don’t anticipate a game going in the direction this one did,″ said SDSU coach Beth Burns, who notched her 150th victory. ``The key was us forcing them to take shots they didn’t want to take.″

Kendis Leeburg scored 12 points and BJ Itoman had 10 to lead Hawaii, which shot 57 percent in the first half but got just 26 percent after the break.

San Diego State, which will be playing in the tournament final for the second time in three years, turned up the pressure early and never let up, forcing 27 turnovers.

``We’ve had terrific floor leadership all season,″ Burns said, pointing to Nowlin-Tres and Wright, whose 20 points marked her career high. ``Senior leaders perform when it’s money time.″

Wright, who came into the game averaging six points, scored seven in the opening seven minutes as the Aztecs built a 17-8 lead.

SDSU increased the margin to 24-14 on a 3-point play by La-Taya Woods, with 7:53 left in the first.

Nani Cockett, Hawaii’s leading scorer (17.9 points per game), didn’t score her first point of the game until 6:40 remained before halftime. But back-to-back baskets by Cockett and Hedy Liu with 3:50 left in the first half cut the Aztec lead to 30-24. That was the closest Hawaii came.

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