UI WOMEN'S HOOPS: Weekend Update

After a disappointing 63-56 loss against Louisiana Tech Thursday in the Cowan Spectrum, the Vandal women shook off a dismal start against New Mexico State at home Saturday afternoon to defeat the Aggies 64-51, moving into a tie for third place in the WAC standings. Senior Rachele Kloke reached a monumental milestone, scoring her 1000th career point with a game-high 17 against NMSU.

LOOKING AHEAD: The Vandals host San Jose State this coming Wednesday at 6 p.m. PST in the Cowan Spectrum, and will be on the big Island next Saturday for a rematch against Hawai'i.


Those who have never attended a game in the Cowan Spectrum or listened on the radio may not realize it, but the Vandal band has a tradition for home basketball games. At the opening tipoff, they stand and sing until the Vandals record their first score of the game. Saturday in the Spectrum the band may have been entitled to some overtime benefits as the Vandals missed their first five shots as the Aggies pulled out to a quick 7-0 lead. In fact the scoring drought lasted through the first media time out at the 15:33 mark of the first half. After the 90-second time out ended and the band had played for the crowd, true to their tradition they resumed the chant. It did not go unnoticed.

Senior post Yinka Olorunnife commented after the game, "The score was like 0-7, and the band is still singing," she said. "I think it's because it we hadn't scored…There was a media time out and after the time out they continued. I noticed that. They do it until you score. Today it was a good, maybe like seven minutes they were singing. They were out of breath."

Actually the band continued for nearly 5 minutes until Olorunnife hit a jumper with 15:06 left in the first half to cut the lead to 7-2 after the Vandals had missed their first seven shots of the game. Idaho continued to struggle a bit after that as the Aggies played a tight man-to-man defense intent on taking the ball out of Olorunnife's hands in hope of disrupting things for the Vandals.

The plan worked for a while, but freshman Alyssa Charlston came in off the bench to disrupt those plans taking the pressure off Olorunnife. Senior Rachele Kloke exploded for a game high 17 points. Charlston had 15 points and 6 rebounds. As her teammates took over the game, Olorunnife worked her inside magic for 16 points and an amazing 18 rebounds.

The Aggies, who took down BSU 87-71 Thursday in Boise, had no answer. Idaho claimed its first lead 17-15 on a three-point play by Olorunnife with 7:25 left in the first half. The lead changed hands a couple more times until a 9-0 Idaho run spanning 3:12 late in the first half gave the Vandals a 30-23 lead they would never relinquish.

It was apparent from the outset that New Mexico State's game plan was to take Olorunnife out of the game. The Aggies succeed…to a point. With the visitors concentrating on Olorunnife a host of Vandals stepped up both offensively and defensively. The Aggies never recovered.

Asked if he felt the strategy was to take Olorunnife out of the scoring and rebounding battles, Vandal coach Jon Newlee said, "Absolutely. We've seen a number of teams try to do that to us. We told Yinka you've got be smart with (Tabytha) Wampler, because she'll flail around in there. She tends to pick up those fouls. I told her not to get involved in a shoving match or a match with Wampler because they've been at it now for the last couple of years, I think. They did it, but you know what? That was okay with us if that's what they wanted to do it, take it inside, because they were 15 for 24 from 3 point range against Boise on Thursday. That was all right with us."

Olorunnife had to make adjustments, but she did just that and wound up with an outstanding 16 points and 18 rebounds. Olorunnife had 12 rebounds but only 6 points in the first half. Did that mean the strategy worked? "No, they didn't take her out," Newlee said. "She took herself out. I think in the first half she was getting to the rim and expecting to be hammered, and she wasn't getting hammered; so she was missing the easy shots. We told her at halftime 'just finish. Keep your head up. Just finish. If they foul you, they foul you. I just think she had a great game. She was a monster on the glass."

With the Aggies concentrating on the senior post the rest of the Vandals stepped up especially in the rebounding department. Idaho collected 46 rebounds to 33 for the Aggies. The Aggies outscored the Vandals in the paint 26-28, but Idaho held a 12-5 edge in offensive rebounds. "It was great," Newlee said about the rebounding edge. "We told 'em we've got to win the rebounding battle. Every time we've out rebounded a team we've won the game, and that's a stat I keep preaching to 'em before every game, and we thought as a team we needed to rebound because of their three-point shooting. Long shots, long rebounds. We told our guards to be ready to rebound, and Bianca (Cheever) had 6 rebounds. That might be a career high for her.

"Alyssa (Charlston) came in there and lit a spark under us, man, and kinda got us going and all of a sudden you looked up and there we were right in the game," Newlee said. Asked about Kloke coming back with a "quiet" 17, Newlee said "I was happy. I think I told the radio guy that I was happy that Rachele saw the flare that I sent up for her after the La. Tech game, because she was missing in action, and it was great to have her back, taking good shots. She worked hard today. I mean, she earned those points. She was really coming hard off screens. Not only getting her shot but getting other people's shots by as hard as she was coming out of our offense, making cuts off the screens that were being set for her. She brought it. She brought it hard tonight, and that's what we need to see."

In the final tabulations Kloke led the scoring with 17 points and added 5 rebounds and 2 steals. Olorunnife had 16 points and led Idaho with 18 rebounds. Charlston, a dynamic 6-1 freshman combination wing/post player had 15 points, 6 rebounds and a steal. Bianca Cheever had 6 points, 6 rebounds, a steal and 2 assists. Derisa Taleni had 6 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals. Keri Arendse had 2 points and 2 assists. Ganeaya Roger had 2 points and a rebound. As a team Idaho committed only 5 fouls in the game to tie a WAC record for fewest fouls by a team in a single game.

FINAL ANALYSIS: The Vandals won the game against NMSU at the free throw line. After shooting only 68% from the line Thursday the Vandals made 17 of 21(81% ) compared to 2 of 5 (40%) for the Aggies. In the final accounting that was the difference in the game.

Louisiana Tech 63, Idaho 56

Things were not nearly as pleasant in the Spectrum Thursday night as the Vandals missed a golden opportunity to hand Louisiana Tech its first loss in conference play falling 63-56.

The Lady Techsters, a storied team in the annals of women's basketball with three NCAA championships to their credits, came out flat and seemed ripe for the taking by the Vandals who, under Newlee, have generally played well against them. Not so Thursday night.

"I feel like our players were intimidated by them, and the fact that their jerseys said 'Louisiana Tech'", Newlee said to La. Tech's new black uniforms, a radical change from their traditional Columbia (powder) blue, "and that is hugely disappointing to me. Yeah, we got off to a fast start, but I felt like the whole game our team was intimidated by them and when you get intimidated you start trying to do things you're not capable of doing with the basketball, because you don't trust yourself. And our team played like a team that didn't trust themselves to play their brand of basketball.

"We had great practices coming into this," Newlee said. "We practiced well, coming off the Boise win I thought our confidence was up, and we were ready to go. Tonight we were good and ready, and we blew a golden opportunity because I didn't think Louisiana Tech was ready to play."

Idaho traded baskets with the Lady Techsters for a few minutes but then pulled off a 9-0 run to lead 14-5 at the 12:24 mark in the first half. The Techsters turned right around and answered that run with 13-0 blitz to make it 18-14 with about 6:30 left in the first half. The first stanza ended with La Tech leading 30-25. Early in the second half it was once again a competitive ball game (there were 6 lead changes and 4 ties) but as La Tech slowly pulled out to a 48-39 lead they suddenly exploded on a 10-0 scoring run over a span of less than 3 minutes to put the game out of reach.

Olorunnife had 15 points and 12 rebounds, her ninth double-double of the year to pace the Vandals who also got 12 points and 5 rebounds from Taleni. No other Vandal reached double figures.


The Vandals have a tough schedule logistically this week. Wednesday they host San Jose State at 6 p.m. then must travel to Hawai'i for a game Saturday night. The following week they will be on the road to take on Utah State Thursday and BSU Saturday (Feb. 12) in Boise.

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