|Vandals clinch No. 5 seed|
LAS CRUCES, N.M. - The Idaho women's basketball team seemed to be clicking on all cylinders as it busted out of a three game skid with a 73-65 road win over New Mexico State to clinch the No. 5 seed in next week's Western Athletic Conference tournament.
Three Vandals (14-13, 7-8 WAC) scored in double figures, and Idaho shot a season-high 54.3 percent from the field, connecting on 25-of-46 shots, including 8-of-18 (44.4 percent) 3-pointers. Meanwhile, the Idaho defense held the Aggies to 39.7 percent shooting, hitting 29-of-68 attempts, including just 1-of-9 3-pointers.
"It was a total team effort tonight, there is no doubt about that," Idaho coach Jon Newlee said. "We came out and did what we wanted to do, which was defend the arc aggressively, and they were 1-for-9, and that was the key to the ballgame."
Yinka Olorunnife had her 14th double-double of the season with a team-high 13 points to go along with 11 rebounds. That bumps her career reounbds total to 1,022, just four shy of breaking the all-time WAC record. Olorunnife went 3-of-6 from the field, including 1-of-1 from 3-point range on a shot-clock beating long-ball in the first half, and finished the game 6-of-6 at the free throw line.
Rachele Kloke scored 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting. She played 27 minutes in the game after missing Idaho's last game with injury.
"It felt good to be back on the floor," Kloke said. "And it was great, the fact that I was able to help out the team, and it was a good win."
Derisa Taleni finished the game with 11 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals. The Vandals also got a nice spark off the bench from junior Ganeaya Rogers, who scored nine points on 4-of-6 shooting. Rogers added an assist and a steal in 17 minutes, and did not turn the ball over.
"I really thought Ganeaya was a huge key for us, nine points but no turnovers," Newlee said. "She was under control tonight and finishing at the rim."
Keri Arendse and Bianca Cheever also chipped in with nine points each for the Vandals, while Jessica Graham added six and Alyssa Charlston had four.
New Mexico State (12-17, 6-9) owned a 37-30 advantage on the glass, and scored 16 second-chance points on 15 offensive rebounds. The Aggies also had a 26-13 advantage in points off turnovers, as the Vandals gave the ball away 17 times in the contest.
"I do think we can do a better job of blocking out and not giving up offensive rebounds," Newlee said. "We've got to get a little more physical inside when the shot goes up."
The Aggies were led by 20 points and 10 rebounds from Tabytha Wampler, who hit 9-of-20 shots from the field, but was limited to 30 minutes in the game, as she picked up her fourth foul with 12:03 remaining in the second half.
Idaho found itself in an early 7-0 hole four minutes into the game, but the Vandals regained their poise, and went on a 10-4 spurt to pull ahead 17-11. The first half went back-and-forth, with four ties and seven lead changes before the break, but the Vandals were able to take a 35-31 lead into halftime.
Idaho led for the entire second half, but the Aggies made it interesting on several occasions. In the early going, NMSU pulled within two at 37-35. The Vandals answered with a 12-3 run to pull ahead by 11 at 49-38. Idaho would lead by as many as a dozen, at 54-42 with 11 minutes remaining, but NMSU was able to cut it down to a one-possession game at the final media timeout, as Idaho led just 64-61 with 3:48 to play. But after Kloke gave Idaho a five point lead with just under three minutes to play, Idaho would lead by at least two possessions for the remainder of the game.
Idaho will visit Louisiana Tech on March 5 in its regular season finale. Regardless of the outcome of that game, the Vandals will be the No. 5 seed in the WAC tournament, and will face the No. 8 seed in the opening round on March 9.