MOSCOW, Idaho - The Vandal women's basketball team opened Big Sky play with an exciting 80-75 come from behind thriller. Idaho had four players hit double figures, led by junior Mikala Ferenz's season-high 33 points that helped Idaho overcome an 11-point North Dakota halftime lead.
The win over North Dakota marked Idaho's fourth straight against the Fighting Hawks.
How it Happened
Idaho (5-7, 1-0) saw some sharp-shooting from Ferenz early on. She hit two quick 3's in Idaho's opening possessions, totaling nine points in the quarter. The Vandals controlled the lead for a majority of the open. Isabelle Hadden, Ferenz and Allison Kirby contributed to a 6-0 run that gave Idaho a 16-10 lead with 1:56 to go in the first. North Dakota surged back with a 7-0 run to close the quarter up 17-16.
North Dakota (7-5, 0-1) used an 8-4 start to the second to gain a 25-20 lead. The Fight Hawks' run totaled 17-5 over the opening 5:12 to up by 11, 34-23. Ferenz scored five straight points for Idaho, trimming the lead back down to six. A Lexi Klabo free throw gave the Fighting Hawks back an 11-point advantage, 41-30, entering halftime.
Ferenz totaled 16 points at the break, going 4-of-5 from 3-point range. Despite getting outscored, the Vandals outshot UND in the first half 39.3 percent to 36.8 percent.
Idaho doubled up UND in the third quarter, outscoring the visitors 32-16. Taylor Pierce hit her first basket of the night, a 3-pointer, in the opening minute. Geraldine McCorkell did the same on Idaho's next possession, leading to an 11-2 run. Ferenz capped the run, cutting the UND lead to 43-41. The Fighting Hawks clung to the lead until the 2:58 mark when Ferenz got out on the fast-break to go up 53-52. Freije hit a 3 for North Dakota in the final minute, cutting the Idaho lead to 62-57.
North Dakota chipped away in the fourth quarter, tying the game at 68 with 4:25 to play. Melissa Daily put the Hawks back in front with a big 3-pointer, 71-68. The Vandals kept it a one-possession game down the stretch. A McCorkell layup gave Idaho back the lead 74-73 with 2:10 to go. Hadden and Ferenz added late points to help close out the win.
Ferenz added eight rebound and five assists to her line. McCorkell closed the night with 13 points and four boards. Hadden and Pierce each totaled 12 points. Kirby and Nejra Solo were strong on the glass, totaling nine rebounds apiece.
Freije and Klabo led the way for UND, each finishing with a double-double. Freije recorded 24 points and 10 rebounds, while Klabo ended with 14 points and 11 boards.
Idaho's third quarter proved to be the turning point in the game. Pierce was 0-for-9 from the floor in the first half, including 0-for-6 from 3. She turned her night around in the third, scoring all 12 of her points in the quarter. Pierce was 4-for-4 from 3 in the third. Idaho shot 75.0 percent (6-8) as a team from long range in the quarter. The Vandals shot 52.4 percent (11-21) from the field and only turned the ball over once.
The Vandal defense held UND to 38.9 percent shooting (7-18) and forced three costly turnovers.
Head Coach Jon Newlee
On tonight's win
"Obviously, it was a tale of two halves. Bad foul trouble really cost us early. The posts got called early and we had to keep rotating guys in there. I am proud of those guys. They stepped up. They were trying to hold their own and battle. Nina and Nat and then I thought Solo came up huge for us. She brought that senior leadership for us out there. I can't say enough about how Isabelle played tonight. I thought she did a great job."
On Mikayla Ferenz and Taylor Pierce
"Mikayla put us on her back in that first half and kept us close enough where we could make this big run in the third quarter. I knew it was a matter of time for Taylor. She thinks she is going to make every shot she takes. I told her at halftime to keep shooting. She hit that first one and that was huge. I knew she would get going. I thought Mik did a great job of slicing in transition and getting to the rim. Not just making 3's. Our team did a good job of pushing the basketball."
Junior Mikayla Ferenz
On starting Big Sky play with a win
"It was huge. I know we felt a little defeated after our preseason schedule. We played some really hard teams and lost some games we should have won. We started our 'second season' like coach said earlier to us today. This was the start of our second season and it is huge to start with a win. It definitely helps our confidence going forward."
Idaho recorded 10 3's on the night, marking the seventh game of the season with 10 or more…Idaho now has 119 total 3's this season…Idaho 21 3FGA were the fewest this season…the Vandals have hit a 3 in 307 consecutive games…Ferenz totaled 30+ points for the second time this season…She now leads the Big Sky with 21.4 ppg…Pierce now has 951 career points, looking to join Ferenz and McCorkell in the 1,000 pts club…Solo's nine rebounds marked a career-high…Idaho scored a season-high 36 points in the paint. Newlee is now 4-7 in conference openers at Idaho.
Idaho will stay at home on Saturday, taking on Northern Colorado. The Bears beat Eastern Washington on Thursday, 70-65. Savannah Scott led UNC with 24 points. Tip is set for 2 p.m. PT.