|Vandals Can't Contain No. 20 Bears|
RENO, Nev.—The University of Idaho held No. 20 Cal to its second lowest scoring total of the season, but could not overcome the Golden Bears 56 rebounds in the John Ascuaga’s Nugget Classic championship on Saturday night. Cal outlasted the Vandals, 59-55 to wrap up the weekend tournament at the Lawlor Events Center.
Cal (5-2) never relinquished the lead in the second half of what turned out to be a defensive struggle. Both Cal and Idaho recorded just 19 field goals in the game, shooting well below their respective season averages. Idaho was 19-of-59 (.322) from the floor, while holding Cal to its worst shooting performance of the season, 19-of-69 (.275). The Bear’s 59 points is their second lowest total of the season, only to the 58 points they scored in a losing effort against No. 2 Duke.
“I think defensively we did exactly what we wanted to do the entire game,” head coach Jon Newlee explained. “We packed them in and made them shoot it. We just did not board it like we needed to. They are huge and athletic and we understand that. I think the offensive rebounding was the tale of the game today.”
Sophomore Ali Forde got in early foul trouble in the first half, taking rebounds off the floor and putting them on the bench for all but four minutes in the half. Cal outrebounded the Vandals 26-19 in the first half and 56-35 for the game. Junior Stacey Barr led the team in rebounds (11) for the third time this season. Forde finished with six boards in 21 minutes of action.
Idaho (4-3) went up by as many as six in the first half, which featured seven lead changes. The Vandals led for a majority of the half, before Cal put together a 12-0 run to close out the first half with a 30-22 lead. Guards Connie Ballestero and Karlee Wilson led the Silver and Gold in scoring at the break, each with six points.
A night after recording 28 points, the Golden Bears focused their attention on senior Alyssa Charlston. Charlston was held only three points and was just 1-of-6 from the field. Barr led the team in scoring with 14 points, helping her self t her third double-double of the season.
“If we would have had a little more effort in the first half and attacked them like we did in the second half, it might have been a different ball game,” Newlee stated. “We kind of came out a little tentative. I did not think we should have, but we were.”
With 2:07 to play in the second half the Vandals were able to cut Cal’s lead down to 50-49 off a Charlston layup. Cal extended its lead back up to five points with 1:21 to play, forcing Idaho to climb back. Forde got the Vandals back within a basket at 57-55 with seven seconds left on the clock.
Idaho had a chance to tie up the game after Cal’s Brittany Boyd missed her two free throw attempts. Idaho go the rebound off the second free throw, looking for a chance to tie the game up and send it to overtime. In all the commotion, the Vandals turned the ball over and were forced to foul, sending the Bears back to line to close out the game.
Boyd led the Bears with 15 points. Courtney Range added 11 points and 11 rebounds.
“I think we understand just how good we can be,” Newlee said. “Obviously they are a team that went to the Final Four and are ranked 20th in the country. We get a couple of different bounces, we walk off winning this game. I think that is very encouraging. Our young players understand that. I think they can see now that this team is capable of anything. Potential is a scary word, but potentially we have chance to be special here if we continue to work hard in practice and do things better.”
The Vandals return home on Tuesday, Dec. 3. They will host Carroll College in Memorial Gym. Tip-off is set for 6:00 p.m. PT.
NOTES: In two games against ranked opponents this season, Idaho has only lost by a combined 12 points…The Vandals have now hit at least one three-point basket in 172 consecutive games...Wilson set a new season high with eight points…59 field goal attempts is tied for a season low, also happened against UC Irvine.