HONOLULU - (FRESNO STATE) When teams in the WAC travel to Hawaii, there are always whispers of a potential letdown.
With the sun, sand and surf just steps away, distractions abound.
The Fresno State women's basketball team nearly met a similar downfall Sunday night. Despite leading by 21 points in the first half, the Bulldogs were forced to claw their way to an 83-70 victory over Hawaii at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu.
The result pushes Fresno State's winning streak to six games as it enters the final stretch of the WAC regular season. The Bulldogs (21-7, 12-2 WAC) are currently in second place with two games remaining before the conference tournament begins next month.
Senior guard Jaleesa Ross led all scorers with 25 points on 9-of-17 shooting. She now needs just eight points to break former Fresno State forward Melvin Ely's nine-year-old scoring record of 1,951 points and become the Bulldogs' all-time leading scorer.
Fresno State led by as many as 21 points in the first half but instead of cruising to an uneventful victory, the Bulldogs let the Rainbow Wahine (10-18, 4-11) go on a big second-half run. Indeed, they saw their sizable cushion melt to just seven points late in the second half. Megan Tinnin capped a 10-3 run to cut Fresno State's lead to 62-55 with 9:05 to play.
With Hawaii continuing to push, Ross repeatedly provided a much-needed response for the Bulldogs. She knocked down back-to-back 3s to push Fresno State's lead to 72-59 with 5:55 left.
Ross was 5-for-12 from 3-point range and now needs 19 to break the NCAA record for 3s in a career.
Still, the Rainbow Wahine's thoughts of an upset remained intact. Guard Keisha Kanekoa drained a 3-pointer of her own to cut the Bulldogs' advantage to 74-67 with 2:33 remaining.
Sophomore forward Rosie Moult finished with 16 points, while senior forward Marnique Arnold added 15 points.
Hawaii freshman forward Kamilah Jackson entered the game averaging a double-double with 11.8 points and 11.7 rebounds (sixth in the nation) per game. Against the Bulldogs, however, Jackson attempted just two shots in the first half and finished with six points.
Ross and Moult knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to balloon the Bulldogs' first-half lead to 40-24 with 4:48 left in the half. Fresno State shot 48.8 percent from the floor in the first half and led by as many as 21 points in the first 20 minutes.