MOSCOW -- Two of the players entered the arena on crutches. Those in street clothes outnumbered those in uniforms. From tipoff to overtime, their coach kept up a running monologue matched only by the radio play-by-play announcer.
With emotion and pathos clearly on their side, the Idaho Vandals shrugged off fatigue and a late-game collapse Wednesday night to blitz Washington State in overtime and win the women's Battle of the Palouse, 89-72.
Darci Pemberton, scoreless through the first 30 minutes, erupted for 24 points, including 12 in overtime, as the Vandals overcame their latest round of injuries and dramatic episodes to win their second straight game.
They did it with seven active players, one of whom, point guard Jen Schooler, played all 45 minutes. Senior post Julie Wynstra racked up 24 points and 14 rebounds while submitting a 39-minute shift.
Yet they made this toil seem like a celebration. This was their first home game since the school's decision to move women's games from aging Memorial Gym to brightly refurbished Cowan Spectrum, and the Vandals made it a christening.
Pemberton said the new venue helps erase memories of last year's 7-21 record.
"We are starting to feel more confident, and we just wanted to show it," the senior forward said. "It's our house. We wanted to come out and prove that everybody who's talking about us is wrong. ... It's a good change from last year. We don't have any of the feelings from last year. It's a completely different look -- and team."
She was referring to scuttlebutt prompted by the sequence of defections and injuries that has eroded the roster. The low point came last week when senior guard Suzy Goss was lost for the season with a knee injury and reserve Taylor Benson quit the team, apparently because of a lack of playing time. But Benson has returned, playing 24 minutes in this game while scoring five points.
"You have to be in the circle (of the team) or out, and I think Taylor was trying to decide if she wanted to jump in with both feet and stay in," first-year coach Mike Divilbiss said. "And she clearly has. And more power to her. That makes us stronger."
But Divilbiss insisted the defections in general are "a good thing."
"I really believe less is more," said the coach, especially vocal in his sideline traffic direction in this game. "I've always believed that. You can add to your team by subtracting from it, both in its play and its players."
The Vandals (2-5) came back from a 27-20 deficit, largely through Schooler's lobs to Wynstra and freshman Keisha Moore. Schooler wound up with eight assists and 15 points, and Moore had 13 points, seven rebounds and four blocks.
"I'm getting used to it," Schooler said of her workhorse role. "At first it was hard, but I think my body is starting to learn. And the practice we go through -- if I can't make it through 45 minutes of game time, then there's something wrong with me. Because we work hard in practice. Games are simple compared to what we go through in practice."
Idaho blew a 64-55 lead in the final three minutes of regulation, as Lindsey Egeland nailed a 3-pointer for WSU with 1:40 left, Brittney Hawks forced a key change in possession with a tie-up, and Francine McCurtain canned a 16-footer to tie things at 69-69 with 52 seconds to play.
But Pemberton popped a 3 early in overtime, and Moore hit back-to-back inside shots to put the Vandals in command.
Hawks, the Cougars' 6-2 senior post, finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds, but WSU (2-5) was outrebounded 33-17 after halftime. Pemberton had 10 rebounds.
"I think they proved from start to finish that they wanted it more," WSU coach Jenny Przekwas said. "We did some things to get back in it and go into overtime. But I thought they just outplayed us."