CEDAR CITY, Utah - Idaho women's basketball wrapped up the Big Sky regular season with a 65-57 win over Southern Utah on Friday. The Vandals finish the conference season with a 13-5 record, securing the No. 2 seed in next week's Big Sky Tournament.
Junior Mikayla Ferenz led all players with 22 points. Geraldine McCorkell and Taylor Pierce also scored in double-figures, totaling 12 and 11.
How it Happened
Southern Utah (3-26, 2-16) did not let records or tournament seeding get to them in the first half on Friday. The Thunderbirds came out swinging, looking to surprise the Vandals. SUU got out to a 14-2 lead, helped by the Vandals 1-for-10 start from the field. Idaho shot just 25 percent (4-16) in the quarter.
Idaho (17-12, 13-5) shook off the dust and picked up the scoring in the second. 3's from Pierce and Ferenz helped Idaho to an 8-2 run to open, slimming SUU's lead to 20-17. A 3-ball from McCorkell brought Idaho all the way back, tying the game at 25 with 1:46 to play in the half. Southern Utah regained a brief lead but Natalie Klinker closed the scoring with an inside jumper to even the score again at 27.
The Vandals never trailed in the second half. McCorkell broke the tie early in the third quarter with a pair of free throws. Ferenz then drilled a 3 to put Idaho up for good, 32-29, with 7:10 to go in the quarter. Isabelle Haddenscored four quick points off the bench, pushing Idaho's lead to seven before the end of the third.
Idaho's lead hit 16 points midway through the fourth. Southern Utah put together a late comeback, going on a 9-0 run to get back to within seven, 58-51, with 2:51 to play. Idaho went 5-for-6 from the free-throw line to close the final seconds.
Idaho was able to turn the tables on Southern Utah after the slow start in the first quarter. The Vandals were 1-for-9 from 3 in the first 10 minutes, but recovered with a 4-for-11 showing in the second quarter, helping to pull even.
The Vandal defense also buckled down in the second quarter, slowing the Thunderbird offense. Idaho allowed only four SUU field goals in the second, seemingly erasing the T-Bird's 8-of-15 start.
Head coach Jon Newlee
On finishing second in the conference
"I thought it was big for us. This was something we wanted to do once we could no longer win the conference. We finished as high as we could. I am proud of our team for what they have been able to accomplish on the road this year. This was a tough game. These guys [Southern Utah] are so much better than their record, especially at home. It was nice to be able to grind one out."
On Issy Hadden
"Her jumper was great. We told her to just turn around and shoot it. They were not going to block her. We ran a few plays for her to get that jump shot. I thought she did a great job of finishing and getting back. She gave us a good offensive spark in that second half."
On Southern Utah's start
"Defensively, I did not think we were ready to play their posts. [Ashley] Larsen was driving around. [Whitney] Johnson was driving around. Our help-defense wasn't there. That was disappointing. We walked through stuff yesterday but to their credit, they attacked what they felt was our weak spot and finished at the rim.
"Offensively, we were getting great looks. They were the same looks we were getting at NAU. I was amazed we were missing those looks because they looked great. I wasn't that worried about the offense. I knew it was going to come, as long as we could get stops."
Idaho's 13-5 Big Sky record matches its conference record from 2015-16 when Idaho was the No. 3 seed and won the Big Sky Tournament…Idaho wore white on the road for the first time this season…McCorkell extended her consecutive free-throws made streak to 32 before missing late in the fourth quarter…Pierce hit 3 more 3's, giving her 295 for her career and 114 on the season…she remains one ahead of Sacramento State's Maranne Johnson for the Big Sky career record…Ferenz hit four 3's giving her 114 on the season…Nejra Solo recorded her third double-digit rebounding game of the season (10).
As the No. 2 seed the Vadnals will have an opening-round bye to start the Big Sky Tournament in Reno, Nev. The Vandals will play their first game on Wednesday.
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