Vandal women go 1-1 last week in Moscow

SUNDAY IN THE COWAN SPECTRUM the Vandal women topped Wyoming 65-59, buoyed by a 17-point second half outburst by GANEAYA ROGERS, elevating Idaho to a 4-7 record on the season. The win Sunday eased the pain of Thursday's 70-57 home loss to UC Riverside, in which the Vandals struggled to score with any consistency.

SUNDAY: Idaho women 65, Wyoming 59

Thursday night in the Cowan Spectrum the Idaho Vandal women suffered through their worst shooting night of the season missing 22 of 33 layups and making just 26% of their field goal tries in a 70-57 loss to UC Riverside.

Some 66 hours later the Vandals returned to the same floor to face the University of Wyoming, and whatever was bothering Idaho Thursday was definitely part of the past as the Vandals put on their best field goal shooting performance of the season (48%) for a solid 65-59 win Sunday afternoon.

The obvious question for Vandal coach Jon Newlee in the post-game media session was what happened against the Cowgirls.

"We won a game," he said with a smile. "I think what happened today is we did a better job of finishing at the rim which is nice. We can still improve on that I think. Defensively we did what we wanted to do. I thought it was a total team effort today. Everybody that played contributed and did something for us and gave us positive minutes, and I thought that was a huge key for us today."

In the first Idaho made only 4 of 10 layups but still managed to post a narrow 29-27 lead. After intermission the Vandals were a perfect 6-for-6 on layup attempts, a huge turnaround that was crucial…because while the layups were going down the Vandal free-throws were not. Idaho made only 1 of 3 in the first half and were again icy making just 1 of 5 in the second half until Ganeaya Rogers and Alyssa Charlston went a combined 5 of 7 free throws in the final 39 seconds with the game on the line.

"Hey, if you're gonna make 'em, at least make 'em when the game's tied and it's on the line and we're gonna knock 'em down," said Newlee. "It was nice to see Ganeaya step up and hit the big free throws, Alyssa stepped up, hit some free throws, and that's what we need, because they're gonna start fouling that early on the clock and we're gonna have to make some free throws. We did that tonight."

The coach was obviously happy with the total team performance which saw 10 players rotating into the game. Nine of them recorded either at least one point or one rebound.

As an example, 6-4 sophomore post Ashley Walters came in averaging just over 2 minutes of playing time a game, but when Graham got into foul trouble Walters responded with four blocked shots and three rebounds in seven quality minutes of PT (playing time). "I thought everyone who came in contributed…Those were the best minutes that Ashley has given us in a long stretch since probably really early in the year, and it was good to see her use her length," Newlee said. "I always tell her she's gotta play like she's 6-4, man, not 5-4. She did tonight. I thought she gave us some good energy defensively, and it was nice to see everyone who got in the game…contribute to the win tonight, and that's what we're looking for. I thought those were Tayler (Weiks) best minutes as well tonight.

"We rotated some posts in," he added. "Adrie (Shiels) came in and gave us some decent minutes…It was hard. Jess gives us a good physical presence inside, Newlee said, "and Wyoming likes (to get the ball) down there, but I think everyone who rotated through that spot really gave us… (Graham) ended up with only 19 minutes tonight because of the foul trouble…so that's what I mean. Ashley's 7 minutes were huge for us and Adrie in the post."

It was obvious the Vandals exhibiting team depth that has been missing recently. Newlee agreed that there is more depth this year, but that he indicated that Sunday every player came to the Spectrum focused and anxious to play. "It's better…when everybody shows up focused and ready to play, Newlee said. "At times there have been people not ready to play and then we have to stick with the six or seven, but tonight you could almost tell from the beginning that everybody 'was here.' Finals week was over and now we're ready to play basketball…That was all behind 'em now. You could tell almost a relief from the finals and they came to play tonight, all of them, and that was nice."

Rogers, who was scoreless in the first half, exploded for 17 points in the second half and added 6 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal. "I just started attacking the basket more and going full speed," she explained, "and I got to the basket and finished."

Newlee went into more detail. "To be honest with you I think she was coming off our on-ball screens harder (in the second half). That's a key for Ganeaya. We always keep telling her she's got to come hard off the on ball and then make decisions, and I think she was able in the open floor to get loose. We ran some plays, and we had a play we like to run for her, and she got to the rim and finished at the rim and that kinda got her really going. I always tell her when she plays full speed she's hard to guard, man.

"It's almost impossible to guard her when she plays full speed. Just keep playing full speed. Tonight she just kept going, going until she got too tired. We had to take her out, give her that quick break, and then bang right back in and look. Right back in, we ran the play for her, bam. She finished at the rim and it was huge. A huge shot for us right then."

Rogers called the victory "…a huge game. It shows us that we can actually play with people and that we are able to compete and so forth, and other games that we've lost have not been up to our potential."

Besides the senior guard's 17 points, Charlston chalked up 16 and Krissy Karr 15 shooting 50% from the floor. Karr and Keri Arendse, both guards, tied for the team lead in rebounds with seven apiece.

The Vandals will be at Cheney, Washington Wednesday night to face Eastern Washington then will be off until they travel to Missoula Montana to compete in the Lady Griz Holiday Classic December 29 and 30 against North Dakota and Southern Mississippi. Next home action will be against North Dakota January 3.

THURSDAY: Idaho women 57, UC Riverside 70

The game plan was excellent and the team executed it just like it was drawn up…except the ball did not go in the basket. Frequently.

The Vandal women drove the ball through the lane for wide-open, often uncontested, layups for 40 minutes Thursday night in the Cowan Spectrum, but the Vandals unofficially missed 22 of 33 layup attempts and 6 of 8 shots in the key and suffered a bitterly disappointing 70-57 loss against UC Riverside.

An obviously frustrated coach Jon Newlee was at a loss (no pun intended) to explain what went wrong.

"We knew we were going to get good shots," he told the media after the game. "We knew we could get to the rim, but if you can't make layups at this level you're not gonna win games. We certainly missed…we stopped counting on the bench at 17 what we consider layups. I know at least 10 of 'em were point blank wide open missed layups that you should make every time. You can't get better shots than wide-open layups, and that's what we got tonight. A majority of our shots were right there, and we did not finish at the rim."

Down 29-16 after shooting 22% from the floor in the fist half the Vandals turned things around somewhat in the second half playing more aggressively on the boards and cutting down on turnovers but still missed 14 layups in the final 20 minutes of action. "We cleaned up the turnovers in the second half and… I thought we played well in the second half especially, but we didn't finish at the rim," Newlee said "It's not even the three-point shooting. That hasn't been there yet this year consistently for us, but we're not just running some spread, wide-open three-point chuck-it-up, chuck-and-duck offense… We're getting the layups at the basket and not making them.

"We're not gonna win games if we can't make layups at the rim. I mean, they're wide-open layups. That's what I told (the team)…(Riverside coach John) Margaritis told me the same, He said, 'Jeez, Jon. You guys had so many opportunities…That's all you can do.' Yeah, that's all we can do is get wide-open opportunities. We've got to finish 'em. I don't know why. If I knew why we'd…there they were tonight, and we certainly didn't…"

Idaho put four players in double figures scoring-wise and Alyssa Charlston posted a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Ganeaya Rogers had 13 points, Keri Arendse 11, and Jessica Graham 10. Both teams had 45 rebounds and Idaho had 17 offensive rebounds and in the second half committed just four turnovers, but after trailing by as many as 23 early in the second half it was too little too late.

Arendse also met with the media after the game and likewise had trouble explaining what had happened. "It seems to be contagious," she said. "If one person starts missing it feels like everyone start missing or vice versa. As a team we just need to be more confident in ourselves and just finish. We do it every day. We just need to have the confidence and just finish when we can.

"It was kinda disappointing how we came out the first half. We gave a lot better effort in the second half, but like coach said we have to play 40 minutes and just pick up our stuff. We're a lot better team than we're showing, and that's the disappointing part. Seniors and upper classmen, we need to step up and be better leaders for our team and just work harder."

Both Newlee and Arendse, a senior guard, said the team needs to become more aggressive in games and on the practice floor.

"We've got to practice better," Newlee commented. "We've got to push each other. That's what I told 'em in the locker room. Got to push each other. It shouldn't be us coaches all day. It should be seniors. Keri (Arendse) and Ganeaya (Rogers), Jess (Graham), those people who have been around and know what's going on. They need to step it up in practice, make other people better and make other people compete harder.

"Stop being so nice to each other in practice, because I've got a bunch of nice girls on my team which is great off the floor, but on the floor it's time to get a little meaner, and that includes practices, not just the game. Right now they have a little problem competing in practice, and that's an issue you see right here because you can't just flip a switch and all of a sudden compete. You've got to compete day in and day out at this level and they are not doing that right now the majority of the time."

Arendse said "Yeah, consistently we have moments when we're really aggressive and what not, but overall I think every day we need to pick it up and be more aggressive and it will carry on to the games."

The Vandals, now 3-7 on the still young season, will host Wyoming Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Cowan Spectrum.

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