RENO, Nev. - It was a wire-to-wire victory for the Vandals on Wednesday night in Reno, as Idaho took down Montana State, 78-74, to advance to Friday's semifinal. The Vandals will next take on the winner of Eastern Washington and Portland State, tipping off later tonight. The semifinal matchup will tip off at 2:35 p.m.
Junior Mikayla Ferenz helped close out the win with a game-high 27 points. She went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line and scored 12 of Idaho's 21 fourth-quarter points. Taylor Pierce hit seven 3-pointers and finished with 21 points. She again surpassed Sacramento State's Maranne Johnson for the Big Sky career record, now with 302 3's.
How it Happened
The Vandals got up early and never gave up their lead, holding an advantage for nearly 39 minutes. The Idaho offense did not lose a step in its time off. Ferenz opened the scoring in style draining her first 3 of the contest. The team got out to a 10-3 run, holding Montana State to just two field goals in the first five minutes. The Vandals hit four 3's in the quarter and shot 50 percent (8-16) to gain a 13-point lead.
Allison Kirby scored five quick points to begin the second, extending the Vandal lead to 25-9. The Bobcats came to life midway through the quarter, posting a 7-0 run to cut the Idaho advantage to 25-16. MSU outscored the Vandals 24-18 in the period, trimming the Idaho lead to seven at the break.
The Silver and Gold came out of the locker room on an 8-0 run, extending its lead back up to 15 points in the first two minutes of the half. The Bobcats again cut the lead down to single digits, 57-48, by the quarter's end.
Montana State threatened to overtake the lead in the final quarter. Idaho hit a 0-for-7 shooting slump and saw its lead dwindle to two, 62-60, with 4:15 to go. Pierce hit a big 3 for the Vandals out of an Idaho timeout to end the offensive slump. Ferenz hit the biggest shot of the night, draining a 3 to go up 68-63 with 49 seconds to play.
Idaho went 6-for-8 from the free-throw line in the final 40 seconds to wrap up the win.
The Vandal's first quarter performance was the difference on Wednesday. Idaho opened up a double-digit lead that proved too much for Montana State to overcome.
Idaho held Montana State to just three field goals in the first 10 minutes. The Bobcats went 3-for-17 from the field and struggled to get any offense. The Bobcat starters were a combined 2-for-11 in the quarter.
Head coach Jon Newlee
On the first quarter
"I loved the way we came out in that first quarter. You always worry when you get the bye how you are going to come out and start. I thought we came out with a lot of energy, shot the ball well and defended fantastically. I think that really set the tone for us. We led from start to finish and never let them get in front."
Junior Taylor Pierce
On her offensive night
"It felt good [out there]. Shoot-around felt good today. You just have to have the mindset that every shot you take is going to go in. My coaches and teammates have so much confidence in me. Every shot I let go, in my head it is going in. It just helps my confidence moving forward."
On setting the 3-point record again
"I've said it before. I never came to the program looking to set records. Coach runs a lot of plays for me and my teammates set screens. I have had great point guards these last three years. It is a great accomplishment. I feel honored to be up there with some of the best, but I also have a pretty good one behind me [in Mikayla]. We will see if I can hold on to it."
Junior Mikayla Ferenz
On closing out the win
"They did a good job in the first half. I felt like I couldn't get anything in the first half. In the second we just executed. My teammates set great screens and got me the ball when I was open."
Idaho's 14 3-pointers are tied for the second most in tournament history, matching its 2016 showing in the quarterfinals against Eastern Washington...Pierce's 7 3s is tied for the second-most in a single tournament game, bested only by Ferenz with 8 in that 2016 game against EWU...Geraldine McCorkell needed eight points to reach 1,500 for her career, she finished with 12...Vandals finish 2-0 on the season against Montana State...Idaho's bench was outscored 31-11...Ferenz recorded her 28th double-figure game of the season...Pierce recorded her ninth 20-point game...Idaho has hit a 3FG in 325 straight games.
Idaho will take on the winner of Eastern Washington and Portland State. The Vandals split the season-series with EWU. Idaho went 2-0 against Portland State.