Report From Moscow: Women's Hoops Update

Thursday night, before the largest crowd to see a Big West Conference women's game in the Spectrum this year, the Idaho Vandals stormed out to a quick 8-0 lead and never trailed, beating the Cal State Northridge Matadors 68-54 before 1,085 Vandal fans. Junior post <b>Emily Faurholt</b>, needing 30 points to surpass 1000 career points, scored 24 on the night.

The win boosted the Vandals to 3-1 in BWC action keeping them one-game behind Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara (both 4-1). Long Beach had to come from behind to beat winless (0-4) Cal State Fullerton 76-68 in Fullerton before a crowd of 659) and Santa Barbara beat Cal Poly (now 2-3) in San Luis Obispo 88-64 with 1,052 in attendance. Surprising UC Riverside also improved to 3-1 with a 64-44 road win over UC Irvine (now 0-5) before 254 fans. Utah State moved to 2-2 with a 67-48 home win over UOP (2-3) witnessed by 386. The Vandals host Pacific Saturday night at 7 p.m.

Northridge, which has a history of playing some of its better basketball against the Vandals, never had a chance last night. Leilani Mitchell passed to Karly Felton for a 3-pointer 46 seconds into the game, and 17 seconds later Emily Faurholt stole the ball from LaJoyce King and drove the length of the floor to make it 5-0 Vandals. Faurholt then fed Mitchell for a 3-pointer at the 17:49 mark to increase the lead to 8-0, and the game for all intents and purposes was out of reach. The Vandals hit 6 of their first 9 field goal attempts including a perfect 4-for-4 from outside the 3-point arc in the first 5:43 of action.

Vandal coach Mike Divilbiss said assistant coach Debbie Roueche's game plan was a major factor in the fast start. "The kids did a great job of keeping the ball on one side of the floor...Debbie did a great job coming up with the game plan defensively for how we wanted to play within our system. We have a couple of different ways we can play out of our man-to-man, and she did a very good job of that and it set the tone. Emily got a steal. Karly got a steal, and it came from us just being aggressive and following our rules within the system that we were playing. That set the line of scrimmage."

He also credited Felton with tenacious defense against Northridge's leading scorer, Ofa Tulikihihifo, enabling the Vandals to put the game away early. "The second part of that (fast start) was Karly doing a tremendous job guarding Ofa. It's always about team defense, but I think you have to give Karly (a lot of credit) for the job she did not only defending her but keeping her off the glass. She did a great job."

A subplot throughout the night was Faurholt's pursuit of the career 1,000-point mark. Needing 30 points to reach that mark, Faurholt finished with 24 points to go along with 8 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal. After the game Faurholt said she was not disappointed about falling 6 points short against Northridge. "No," she said. "It's not a big deal to me. I just want to win...Karly was absolutely outstanding, and Leilani - her passing and rebounding was incredible. I thought Heather (Thoelke) was very aggressive. Lauren Frazee off the bench hit two 3's...It was such a team effort, and I think that's the way to win. That's what makes it fun when we all play together."

Led by freshman Jessica Summers' 12 rebounds, the Vandals also won the battle on the glass outrebounding Northridge 48-35. "I think we did a great job as a team on the glass," Divilbiss said. "We've struggled with (Northridge) through the years. They're very, very athletic...We've got different types of players that really compliment each other really really well. Jessica gives us some much-needed size and strength in the post... Her presence in the paint really helps us. She's a very good rebounder. It's a piece that's really helping this team whether she scores a point or not."

Asked if he was pleased there was no letdown following last week's big win at Santa Barbara, Divilbiss indicated he had expected the Vandals to play well as they continue to grow as a team. "I told the girls even before the Santa Barbara game that we're getting stronger as a basketball team," he said. "I think the struggle that we've gone through in the month on the road and the 5 games, losing to Gonzaga the way we did...the adversity that we've been through in our preconference schedule...kind of forges you like steel through fire. We went through some adversity, and I think it makes you stronger and tougher. I think we're starting to see the fruits of that struggle. I still think we have a long way to go as a basketball team to reach our potential, but I think we're getting stronger mentally and emotionally which is really important for this team.

"I think we're starting to come together as a team which also is very, very important for them. I think also that they are improving in their understanding of the game and the execution of the game. That's all from coming through the fire that we've been through. I think it's helped us. It's genuine. It's not a fleeting thing. It feels very solid to me -- solid development."

Three Vandals scored in double figures (Faurholt with 24, Felton with 17, and Mitchell with 12) while Frazee added 6, Felton 5, and Summers and Stephanie Sax had 2 each. The Vandals hit 42% from the floor including 40% from behind the arc and were 11-for-14 (79%) from the line.

Mitchell, who established a school record with a perfect 20-for-20 effort from the line against Santa Barbara was 4-4 and has now canned 27 straight free throws.

Great passes leading to scores were the order of the night for Idaho as Mitchell dished out 7 assists, Thoelke 4, Faurholt and Felton 3 each, and Summer and Sax 1 each. Mitchell also had 3 steals. Tulikihihifo wound up with a double-double for the Matadors with 22 points and 10 rebounds.

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