|WBB visits first-place Bulldogs|
The Idaho women's basketball team will look to continue its recent success, having won three of its last four games, as it continues Western Athletic Conference play at Fresno State with a 7 p.m. tipoff on Thursday night.
But, winning at Fresno State will be no easy task, as the Bulldogs have won nine straight games, own a perfect 8-0 WAC record and are riding a 16-game WAC winning streak, dating back to last season. The Bulldogs are 20-4 overall this season.
"They have a lot of good players and they shoot the ball tremendously," Idaho coach Jon Newlee said of Fresno State. "They're a veteran crew, they've been running that system for a while now. Anytime you shoot the basketball like they can, you're capable of having great runs during games. That's what happens with them, they kind of lull you, they're not doing much, and then all of the sudden they go on a big run and it's hard to come back against them."
The Vandals enter Thursday's game coming off their first loss in February, as Louisiana Tech beat Idaho 61-57 in the Cowan Spectrum last week. Before that loss, Idaho had won three straight games to pull itself back into the thick of the WAC race. The Vandals own an 8-17 overall record on the season and a 3-6 mark in WAC play.
"We've got a little more physical, we're doing a better job on the glass, we're taking care of the basketball and taking better shots. All of that combined," Newlee said. "Right now we're handling the basketball better, we're making better decisions with the ball, and we're rebounding better. Overall we're not giving up as many O-boards and second-chance points, and that's been a huge factor for us."
After a season-high 29 turnovers aided a 72-49 Fresno State victory over Idaho on Jan. 21, Newlee hopes his team will handle the Bulldogs' pressure better the second time around.
"We did learn we can't turn it over 29 times, and that was a huge factor, we turned it over on top and gave them easy layups," Newlee said. "They're going to get points out of their offense just because they're so hard to guard. You can't give them easy layups and transition points by turning the ball over against their pressure. They like to trap and double team, and I think we're handling that better. Earlier our freshman guards were not handling that type of pressure well. I'm hoping we're going to do a better job Thursday against that type of defense."
Idaho enters the week in sixth place in the WAC standings, but is just a half game behind fifth-place Hawai'i and a game and a half behind fourth-place San Jose State. After beating both those teams on the road already this season, the Vandals close out the regular season by hosting UH and SJSU in early March.
"We like to see where we're at in the WAC and we'd like to try to get as high as possible going into the WAC tournament," Newlee said of climbing the WAC standings. "We'd certainly like to climb up into that fourth spot, if not, get a good streak going and get into that third spot. But seeing the way we played LA Tech, knowing the rest of the schedule as it falls, I think it's realistic for us to climb up and get into that fourth, third spot, something like that."
The Vandals will wrap up the week with a game at Nevada on Saturday. Idaho's three-game road trip ends Feb. 25 with a visit to Utah State before the Vandals host San Jose State on March 1 and Hawai'i on March 3 to close out the regular season.