|Vandals Tame Wolverines, 69-61|
MOSCOW, Idaho—Sophomore Christina Salvatore matched her season-high in scoring, helping boost the Vandals to a 69-61 win over Utah Valley at the Cowan Spectrum on Saturday. Salvatore finished with a game-high 17 points and seven rebounds.
Idaho (18-8, 11-1 WAC) got back on the winning track against the Wolverines after suffering its first conference loss of the season on Thursday. Four Vandals reached double-digit scoring, as the team shot 40.9 percent (27-of-66) from the field. Idaho is now 6-2 on the season following a loss.
“I thought we did a great job of bouncing back after our first conference loss,” head coach Jon Newlee said. “Our defensive intensity and offensive execution to start the game were key. Our execution in the last five minutes was outstanding.”
“Last time we played them our posts ran the floor really well and it spaced out our three-point shooters,” Salvatore explained. “I think we did the same thing tonight. Our posts ran the floor hard and we got a bunch of open looks. We did a good job of knocking them down.”
Junior Stacey Barr matched Salvatore with 17 points on the night. The Australian native shot 7-of-16 (43.8 percent) from the field and added five rebounds. Connie Ballestero shot 50 percent from the field, finishing with 10 points and four assists in her 36 minutes. Freshman Brooke Reilly contributed key points from off the bench. Reilly finished with 10 points on the afternoon, marking the sixth time she has scored in double figures in her rookie campaign.
The Vandals led by as much as 13 in the first half, before taking a 33-24 lead into the break. Utah Valley opened the second half on a 9-2 run to get within two with 16:32 to play. Back-to-back layups from Ali Forde and Barr got the lead back up to six at 39-33.
Utah Valley (4-20, 1-10 WAC) kept chipping away in the second half, eventually overtaking Idaho 41-40 with 13:13 reaming. Barr tied it at 41, hitting the front end of a one-and-one. A Reilly layup at the 12:07 mark gave the Vandals a slim 43-41 lead. UVU’s Katie Kuklok recorded two of her 13 points with a pair of free throws to tie the game at 43 with 11:40 to play.
Down the stretch the lead switched sides six times. Alyssa Charlston tied and then gave the Vandals the lead with a pair of free throws with 5:04 to play. Three pointers by Barr and Salvatore gave Idaho a 64-59 lead with 2:10 left on the clock. The finishing blow to the Wolverines came at the hands of Addie Schivo, drawing a foul after making a fast-break layup with 27 seconds to play.
“I think it is good to get this win out of the way,” Ballestero noted. “We had a talk after the Bakersfield game about trusting each other more. I think after that talk we really came together as a team and showed that tonight.”
Saturday was the annual Hoops for Hope game, supporting breast cancer awareness. The team raised over $1,300 that will be donated to the Gina Quesenberry and Light a Candle Foundations.
Idaho will be back on the hardwood on Saturday, Feb. 22. The Vandals will make their final road trip of the season as they head to Phoenix a matchup with Grand Canyon.