|Vandal women advance|
LAS VEGAS -- The Idaho women's basketball team built a commanding lead in the first half, and held on in the second in a 67-63 victory over San Jose State in the Western Athletic Conference quarterfinals at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
Idaho (12-19) buried nine 3-pointers and never trailed in the first half, taking a 41-24 advantage into the break. The Vandals shot 43 percent in the first half, and 56 percent from deep.
The second half, however, was a different story. Idaho went just 2-of-12 from long range and 7-of-25 overall as San Jose State outscored Idaho 39-26 and pulled within two in the final minute.
"It was a tale of two halves," Idaho coach Jon Newlee said. "We really came out on fire, we really played well, we defended extremely well in the first half. In the second half defensively we broke down at some points, but you have to give a lot of credit to Brittany (Johnson). In the second half we got tentative with the basketball and tentative with our shot selection, and it almost cost us. I'm proud of the way we hung tough though."
San Jose State senior Brittany Johnson led the Spartan charge, scoring 31 points on 11-of-21 shooting and 4-of-6 from 3-point distance before fouling out in the final seconds. Her fifth foul came with Idaho leading 65-63 with seven seconds left, which sent Idaho freshman Krissy Karr to the line, where she converted both free throws to seal the win.
"I've had to shoot free throws in some big games before in high school, but this was a little bit different," Karr said. "As soon as I saw the first one go in I felt pretty good about the second one."
Karr finished the game with 17 points to match her career-high, and added four rebounds and four assists in 37 minutes of action. Sophomore Alyssa Charlston missed her first seven shots but finished with 16 points on 5-of-15 shooting and added 15 rebounds for her 10th double-double of the season. Freshman Stacey Barr added 13 points and six rebounds for Idaho and made three 3-pointers.
"It's huge for us," Charlston said of the win. "We've been a team that's been improving all season long. We are peaking. We're improving and all of our younger players are getting playing time. You see points off the bench 18-1, that shows we have a lot of depth on our team. Just winning this game is going to bring a lot of confidence to us, not only for this next game but going into next season as well."
The Vandals shot 37 percent from the field for the game and 39 percent from 3-point range. SJSU, shot 36 percent overall and 40 percent from 3.
Idaho outrebounded SJSU 46-33 including 15-10 on the offensive end. The Vandals had 16 assists on 22 made baskets, and went a perfect 12-for-12 from the free throw line. Idaho had 17 turnovers to San Jose State's 10, which aided the Spartans' 16-10 advantage in points off turnovers.
Idaho led by as many as 19 points late in the first half after a 10-1 run, and never trailed in the game. San Jose State then used an 8-2 spurt early in the second half to build momentum, and continued to chip away throughout the period. The Spartans got the deficit to single-digits with under seven minutes to play but never had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead.
Idaho, the fourth seed in the tournament, will have Thursday off before taking on top-seeded Fresno State at 2:30 on Friday.
"We'll go to a high school and practice and get ready for Fresno," Newlee said. "Of course we've already played them twice so I think we have a good feel for them and they have a good feel for us."
Idaho went 0-2 against the Bulldogs in the regular season, as Fresno State went 13-1 in WAC play.