The University of Idaho women's basketball team battled hard for the entire 40 minutes on Thursday night against Grand Canyon University. After two decisive victories last week, the Vandals went back and forth all night against the ‘Lopes, resulting in a hard fought 58-54 win inside Cowan Spectrum.
Idaho (14-7, 7-0 WAC) trailed by three points with 2:23 left on the clock. Senior Addie Schivo evened the score at 54 all, with a three-pointer off a fast break led by sophomore Ali Forde. Forde rebounded the ball in the defensive court, running the length of the floor before passing off to Schivo at the right side corner-baseline. Junior Stacey Barr gave the Silver and Gold the lead with 53 seconds to play. Her inside layup broke the ninth tie of the game and boosted Idaho to a 56-54 lead.
Following Barr's basket, head coach Jon Newlee took a timeout to plan the final 52 seconds. After empty possessions on both ends of the court, Grand Canyon had the ball trailing 56-54. Out of a GCU timeout with three seconds to go in the game Jenna Pearson had the ball taken away by Forde who gained possession and called a timeout. On the ensuing inbound Idaho got the ball into Barr who was fouled with two seconds to go. With the clock stopped Barr drained both free-throws, clinching the Idaho victory.
"It was an intense moment for sure," Charlston said following the victory. "It helped that we have been in those situations before. Coach in the timeout said that if we get the stop, grab the ball and call a timeout, no matter what."
The Vandals are now 7-0 in conference play for the first time since the 1981-82 season. Idaho has not been on the losing end of a contest in 2014. They are currently in the midst of a seven game winning streak, the longest since the 2003-04 season.
Idaho (14-7, 7-0 WAC) struggled from the field in the first half, going into the break trailing for the first time since Dec. 28 at Texas. The Vandals shot 7-of-34 (20.6 percent) in the first 20 minutes. Charlston was responsible for more than half of the Vandals 20 points, recording 12 in the first 20 minutes. She finished the night with her fifth double-double of the season, scoring 14 points and adding 13 rebounds.
"I think they [the team] were feeling these expectations of the start that we are off to," Newlee stated. "I think being at home and in front of the crowd, they want to play well. We had a good crowd tonight, I guess the pizza drove them in. They just want to play well in front of their home crowd. They just put way too much pressure on themselves in the first half."
Forde played another tough game inside for the Vandals. The sophomore tied her career-high with 15 rebounds. Forde added eight points, three blocks and a season-high four steals in her 36 minutes on the floor.
"Ali has been big for us," coach Newlee said. "She is physical, she is blocking shots, she is talking and directing. She has been getting in lanes, doing everything on the defensive end."
Senior Addie Schivo had a career night on the glass. She clawed her way to a career-high eight rebounds off the bench. She added 12 points, putting her in double-digit scoring for the first time since Nov. 23 against UC Irvine.
With under five minutes to play in the first half, Barr hit a three-pointer from beyond NBA range, shifting the game's momentum. Barr added two more long shots, finishing 3-of-7 from beyond the arch. The junior from Australia finished with 14 points on the night, prolonging her streak of double-digit scoring to 12 games. Sophomore Connie Ballestero played the entire game, finishing with nine points and four assists.
The Vandals overcame a poor-shooting first half to finish the game 19-of-63 (30.2 percent). Idaho outrebounded Grand Canyon, 52-39. Down low the Vandals finished with 26 points in the paint, and finished with nine points off of fast breaks.
GCU (13-5, 2-3 WAC) was led by Kaitlyn Petersen with 13 points. Johnna Brown was the only other Antelope to reach double figures, finishing with 10 points.
Idaho is off this weekend and will return to action on Feb. 1, taking on WAC rival Seattle U. The Vandals will travel to Seattle, making stops in New Mexico and southern Texas before coming back home on Feb. 13 to open a two-game home stand.