LAS VEGAS, Nev. - The Idaho women's basketball team scored a season-high 54 first-half points and that proved to be all they needed, defeating No. 8 Chicago State 84-43 in quarterfinal play of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament at the Orleans Arena on Wednesday.
Idaho (23-8, 15-1 WAC) opened play scoring the game's first five points. The Cougars recorded the next four, cutting the Vandals' lead to one. Sophomore Ali Forde's layup at the 16:36 mark triggered a 20-4 Idaho run over the next 5:56, boosting Idaho to a 25-8 lead. The Vandals would increase their lead to 54-16 by the final buzzer of the opening period.
The Vandals shot a stellar 58.6 percent in the first half. Sophomore Christina Salvatore drilled four first-half three pointers to lead the way for Idaho with 12 points at the break. Stacey Barr, the WAC Player of the Year, finished the first half with 11 points. Alyssa Charlston and Agueda Trujillo Fernandez each recorded 11.
"I thought the first half was certainly one of our better halves of the year," head coach Jon Newlee stated. "It may be the best offensively just in terms of moving and sharing the basketball, just making really good decisions out on the floor. I liked our defensive intensity as well in that first half. I thought we really brought it. I thought we were really ready to play."
Idaho drilled 11 first-half three-point baskets, marking a new season-high. Salvatore and Trujillo Fernandez combined for seven long range field goals, shooting 7-of-9. As a team Idaho shot 11-of-21 (52.4 percent) from downtown and 21-of-37 (56.8 percent) from the field. Idaho finished the day with 14 three-pointers, one shy of the school and WAC Tournament record.
Chicago State (3-27, 0-16 WAC) recorded the first two baskets of the second half, trimming Idaho's lead to 33. Five minutes into the half Idaho had extended its lead to 41. From that point on Idaho paced its self, subbing players in and out to stay fresh and gain experience.
"We have been anticipating these games out here," Newlee said. "To get out under the lights and get a game under our belts was nice. I think we gained that confidence again coming off of last year and then starting the tournament with this kind of start I think will help us."
The Silver and Gold had five players finish in double figures for the fifth time this season. Salvatore led the way with a game-high 18 points. Forde recorded her fifth double-double of the season with 15 points and 13 rebounds. Barr finished with 15 points six assists, tying her career-best. Trujillo Fernandez and Charlston finished with 13 and 11, respectively. The Vandals ended the day shooting 32-of-60 (53.3 percent) from the floor.
"The first two times we played them we ran the floor really well," Salvatore said. "Our posts ran the floor really well and it spaced out our shooters. I think we had the same mindset tonight. Our posts got looks and that kind of opened up our shooters on the wing."
Senior Addie Schivo came off the bench netted seven points and a career-high six assists. Idaho's bench outscored Chicago State's 25-16.
The Vandals will play the winner of game two between Texas-Pan American and New Mexico State on Friday at 12 p.m. PT. Idaho swept the season series 2-0 against both possible opponents.