|Women's hoops finishes strong|
MOSCOW - The 2011-12 Idaho women's basketball season was highlighted by a late run in Western Athletic Conference play that saw the Vandals climb out of an 0-5 conference start all the way to a fourth-place finish in the final standings. Idaho's run included wins in the final two games of the regular season to reach fourth place, and a third consecutive opening round win in the WAC Tournament to reach the conference semifinals for the second time in three years.
The Vandals began February by winning three straight games, including two on the road over Hawai'i and San Jose State. It was Idaho's first three-game win streak since the first three games of the 2010-11 season. After narrow losses to Louisiana Tech and Fresno State, who met in the WAC finals in March, Idaho won three of its final four regular season games to bring momentum into the WAC tournament.
It is often said that beating a team three times in one season is tough to do. Well, the Vandals rose to the challenge in the WAC quarterfinals, beating an upstart San Jose State squad, led by WAC Coach of the Year Tim La Kose, 67-63 to advance to the WAC semifinals. The win marked the third straight WAC Tournament opening round win for the Vandals, who reached the semifinals in 2009-10 and the quarterfinals in 2010-11.
The Vandals, however, couldn't overcome an early hole in the WAC semifinals against regular-season and eventual tournament champion Fresno State, falling to the Bulldogs 80-55 to end the season with a 12-20 overall mark and a 6-8 record in WAC play.
However, there were many accomplishments along the way. Idaho sophomore Alyssa Charlston earned first-team all-WAC honors after ranking sixth in the league in scoring (14.5) and fourth in field goal percentage (48.6) and rebounding (8.8). Charlston was Idaho's most decorated player throughout the season, earning WAC Player of the Week honors once, and all-tournament team honors at the New Mexico Tournament, the Lady Griz Holiday Classic, and the WAC Tournament, while snatching one of 15 Academic All-American nods along the way. Charlston became the only first-team all-WAC honoree at Idaho since the Vandals joined the league in 2005-06, and the team's first Academic All-American in a decade. Her 283 rebounds on the season are the third highest total in a single-season in program history.
Idaho freshman Krissy Karr earned WAC all-freshman team honors after playing in 29 games and starting 26 as Idaho's point guard. Her 3.97 assists per game ranked third in the WAC, and her 1.20 assist-to-turnover ratio ranked sixth. She also averaged 6.9 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, and hit arguably the most electrifying shot of the season, a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in overtime that gave Idaho a one-point win at Nevada late in the season.
Fellow freshman Stacey Barr jumped onto the scene with her ability to knock down shots from anywhere in the gym. Given the green light from coach Jon Newlee, Barr connected on 62 3-pointers on the season, the fourth highest single-season total in program history, and the 17th most of any Vandal career. Despite being primarily a bench player, Barr was second on the team in scoring, averaging 10.3 points per game. Tayler Weiks, another freshman, played in 31 games for Idaho and knocked down 23 3-pointers while averaging 3.7 points and 1.1 rebounds per game for Idaho.
Junior Jessica Graham played a full season for the first time in her career, and made 22 starts on the season, averaging 5.6 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. 6-foot-4 post Ashley Walters also provided depth at the post position for Idaho, and she finished with 47 blocks on the season to go along with 2.5 points and 2.2 rebounds per game.
The Vandals will part ways with two-year seniors Keri Arendse, Ganeaya Rogers and Adrie Shiels. Arendse was the only Vandal to start all 32 games on the season, and she broke the career 500-point mark late in the year, and averaged 8.9 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Rogers started 30 of the 31 games she played in, and gave Idaho 8.0 points and 2.7 boards per game. Shiels, who played in 31 games and started nine, averaged 3.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, and ranked eighth in the WAC with 0.84 blocks per game.
While Idaho will miss what those seniors brought to the table, nearly a third of the team's scoring in 2011-12, the future looks bright for Idaho women's basketball. The Vandals will return a combined 89 starts and 44.2 points per game from 2011-12 to its roster next season. Add that to what Newlee calls the most talented recruiting class he's brought in at Idaho, and it's easy to see why the Vandals are already looking forward to getting things started for the 2012-13 season.