Vandal Women 69, Montana 56

IDAHO WOMEN'S COACH JON NEWLEE STAYED COOL AND CALM - on the outside at least – as his Vandals trailed by as many as 10 points to Montana in Memorial Gym Wednesday night. But with 11:30 left in the second half Idaho got a three-point play from Derisa Taleni for a 46-45 lead, their first of the game, and senior RACHEL KLOKE (21 pts) and the Vandals never looked back to win pulling away, 69-56.

Wednesday night head coach Jon Newlee registered his first win over Montana while leading Idaho, and only the Vandals' seventh win ever in 42 tries against the Lady Griz. Idaho's last win came exactly six years ago – Dec. 8, 2004 - when Heather Thoelke converted a four-point play in the closing seconds, then stole the subsequent inbounds pass to secure a 59-58 win.

In actuality, the game Wednesday night in Memorial Gym might have been more lopsided had the Vandals had better luck shooting the ball in the first half. Montana set up in its trademark zone defense and Idaho was able to work the ball inside for several point-blank field goal attempts, but most shots were off the mark.

"We missed seven layups in the first half," Newlee said. "The same thing happened at Wyoming, and it kinda deflates you when you miss little two footers and layups; so we just told the guys, 'Hey. You've got to finish at the rim. You've got to keep your head up.' I think we were anticipating contact and kinda dropping heads and missing some layups."

The Vandals did indeed keep their heads up. After shooting 38% from the floor in the first half, Idaho was on fire in the second half hitting 15-of-25 (60%) from the floor, 43% from 3-point range, and 73% from the free-throw line. "We distributed the ball well and we picked up the pace offensively," the coach said. "I thought we made the extra pass and got some better looks, and I thought that was the key really to it."

Newlee also gave a lot of credit to an increase in defensive intensity by his team. "We wanted to get out and pressure the ball more," Newlee said. "We wanted to pick up our defensive intensity. I thought we were pretty passive in our zone. I told them, 'Just because we play zone doesn't mean we can be passive.' I thought we did a much better job of extending it and getting out to the ball handlers, and not letting them see everything that was developing like they did the first half."

On the final stat sheet seven Vandals saw extensive playing time and four scored in double figures. Senior Rachele Kloke led all scorers with 21 points (10-of-14 from the floor, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocked shots and a steal). Fellow senior Yinka Olorunnife logged a double-double with 12-points and a solid 18 rebounds. Junior point guard Kari Arendse had a "quiet" 15 points (5-of-9 from the field), 3 rebounds and an assist.

"She (Arendse) has improved," Newlee said. "She's gotten a lot better since the season started, since October. She's feeling more comfortable now." The game was touch and go until Arendse canned a 3-pointer off a pass from Kloke with just over two minutes remaining to boost the lead to nine, putting things on ice. "I like the fact that she came back and took the big shots, especially when Kloke kicked it out to her, Newlee said. "That was a clutch situation and a big three I thought she hit at a crucial point. She wasn't afraid to shoot it. She's a nice scorer out of Skagit Valley, too. She knows what she's doing. She just has to get more comfortable, and right now she's look pretty comfortable.

Derisa Taleni checked out with 12 points with 4 assists and 3 rebounds, Alyssa Charlston had 5 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists; Shaena Kuehu had 3 points, 3 assists and a rebound, and Ganeaya Rogers had 1 point, 2 rebounds, and 3 steals.

The Vandals improved to 6-2 on the young season. Saturday they will travel to Seattle to face the Seattle University Red Hawks at 2 p.m. in the first game of a doubleheader which will include a matchup between Idaho and the Seattle U men at 5 p.m. Idaho will be on the road for five straight games (again) including games at Seattle, Gonzaga, St. Mary's (Moraga California), Portland and Nevada before heading back to Moscow to face Fresno State Jan. 10.

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