Hot shooting Vandals top Thunderbirds

Hot shooting Vandals top Thunderbirds
University of Idaho receives grant funding to improve natural resources on croplands

RENO, Nev. – A hot start and a strong finish helped push Idaho past Southern Utah, 83-68, in the opening round of the 2017 Big Sky Tournament on Monday afternoon. With the win, the Vandals move on to face No. 4 Eastern Washington at 2:35 p.m. on Wednesday at the Reno Events Center.

How It Happened
Idaho (17-13) got out to a hot start, taking a 20-7 advantage midway through the first quarter behind three 3’s from junior Brooke Reilly. The Vandal defense was exceptional early on, holding the Thunderbirds to just two field goals in the first five minutes. Southern Utah would mount its comeback late in the first quarter, cutting the Idaho advantage to 24-20 after one.

Southern Utah (7-23) kept fighting going into the second, winning the quarter 16-13. It was the Vandals, however, that closed out the half, with Karlee Wilson knocking down a 3-ball with 24 seconds to play to give Idaho the 37-36 lead at the break.

Southern Utah would take a lead of its own in the third quarter, but the Vandals responded yet again. The Thunderbirds got up 47-42 with just under six minutes to play in the quarter, then the Vandals turned things on. Idaho closed out the third frame on a 16-6 run, fueled by big 3’s from Mikayla Ferenz and Taylor Pierce, to take a five-point advantage into the fourth.

Idaho was electric in the fourth quarter, shooting 7-of-11 from the floor. Wilson shut the door for the Vandals with her third 3 of the game, putting Idaho up 77-66 with 2:43 to go. The Silver and Gold to expand its lead with a 6-0 run in the final 1:44, cruising to the 83-68 win.

Ferenz was the top scorer for the Vandals, finishing with 25 points, while Reilly battled for 18 points and 10 boards, recording her fourth career double-double. Wilson finished with 18 as well, while Pierce also crept in double-figures, scoring 13 points.

The Vandals finished the night 12-of-26 (46.2%) from beyond the arc, compared to just 1-of-8 (12.5%) by the Thunderbirds. Idaho was also tremendous from the field overall, finishing 26-of-50 (52.0%). The Vandals dominated on the glass, winning the battle of the boards 42-29.

Idaho’s defense stepped up in the second half. Southern Utah was able to keep close in the first half thanks to 20 points from senior Jessica Richardson. She was 7-for-11 in the first half from the field, while the next closest scorer for SUU had eight at the break. Reilly and Sue Winger helped team up against Richardson after halftime. The duo played her tight the remainder of game, allowing her to score just four points in the second half, finishing 9-of-20 from the floor.

Reilly single handedly fueled Idaho’s hot start. She scored 11 of Idaho’s 24 points in the first quarter. The junior tied her season-high with three 3-pointers in the first 10 minutes. Wilson added to the 3-point total, helping Idaho outscore Southern Utah 12-3 from long range. Idaho’s offensive output got a boost in the third and fourth quarter. Wilson totaled 10 points in the second half, while Ferenz came on strong with 17 in the final 20 minutes. Idaho did a good job from the free-throw line in the final quarter, going 9-for-11 to close out the win.

Idaho has now hit a 3-pointer in 291 consecutive games…the Vandals have won their last 10 conference tournament games…the team improves to 11-1 in the state of Nevada the past four season…Reilly matched career-high with four 3’s…10th 20 point game of the season for Ferenz…Pierce passed Leilani Mitchell for fifth all-time in program history with 165 career 3’s…Ferenz now has 158 career 3’s, seventh all-time at Idaho…McCorkell totaled five points, giving her 966 in her chase to 1,000.

Head Coach Jon Newlee
On team’s confidence level
“It is extremely high. It has been. Like Karlee [Wilson] said we have been in this kind of environment before. We are a tournament tested team and I think it showed tonight when we got down. Huge props to Southern Utah. They played fantastic basketball. I thought Chris [Boettcher] did a fantastic job of getting them prepared. The back-to-back thing was weird, having to turn right around and play them again. He had those guys ready to go. To pull this one out today, the old ‘Survive and Advance’ thing, but it was true tonight. I our experience really pulled us through tonight.”

On defending Jessica Richardson
“Brooke [Reilly] and I had a little chat at the half. I asked, ‘Who wants to get her?’ and Brooke was ready for that challenge. She knew she had to get her, Geri [McCorkell] was on the bench with foul trouble. Brooke is long and very athletic. She took it on herself. She and Sue Winger both did a fantastic job of getting closer to Richardson and making her take even tougher shots, if that was possible. I think we finally just wore her down with our constant pressure. Brooke and Sue did a fantastic job defensively in that second period.”

Senior Karlee Wilson
On overall play
“I definitely thought we battled hard. We were going back and forth for a while. Their [SUU] pressure kind of rattled us a little bit, especially me at points. I think our guards stepped up really well, when I was not taking care of the ball like I should have. I give credit it to the other guards. They were bringing the ball up the court and taking care of it way better than I was.”

On her tournament experience
“I would say experience helped me a little bit. I have been in these environments before, especially last year as a junior. I was put in the position to kind of lead my team. I think that definitely helped me a lot.”

Junior Brooke Reilly
On missing last season’s tournament
“Honestly, [today] was just like any other game. Even more important being a Big Sky Tournament game. We know we are going to get everyone’s best game. It was tough watching the team win it last year. It makes me want to win even more this year and give it my all.”