Vandals beat Cal Poly 81-70

Four players scored in double figures for the Lady Vandals Saturday night (including <b>Jessica Summers'</b> double-double) in their 81-70 win over Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in the Cowan Spectrum.

Idaho's victory, their 5th in a row, keeps the Vandals in first place in the Big West standings with a record of 9-2 BWC, 14-6 overall. It was the kind of scoring balance coach Mike Divilbiss has been hoping to see this year from the Vandals.

"That's exactly what we prefer, and I think the girls are happiest with that, too, Divilbiss said "I think this makes us a much better basketball team. Their confidence is growing daily." In the final scoring tally Emily Faurholt racked up 26 points, 4 assists and 4 rebounds. Jessica Summers notched her third double-double of the season with 17 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals; Heather Thoelke had 17 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 assists; and Leilani Mitchell had 16 points (including a remarkable 11 of 12 from the free throw line), 8 assists, 6 steals, 1 rebound and 1 blocked shot. Stephanie Sax added a 3-pointer in the first half. Karly Felton had 2 points, 1 assist, 1 blocked shot, and also did a great job on the perimeter defensively for the Vandals.

The two teams played up-tempo basketball in the first half with Cal Poly shooting a sizzling 62% from the floor including 2 of 4 3-pointers. The Vandals were likewise hot from the floor shooting 54% and 55% on 3 pointers. Idaho scored the first 5 points of the game, but the rest of the first half was a battle. The game was tied twice and there were 3 lead changes before the Vandals, leading 26-25 with 7:52 remaining, went on a tear outscoring Cal Poly 10-1 in the next 2:13 to build their lead to 37-26.

The Mustangs, though, continued their high-speed attack and whittled the lead down to 3 points at the half, 42-39, and scored the first 5 points of the second half to take a 44-42 lead. The game was tied on 6 occasions and remained tight until the Vandals finally gained control of the tempo and then went on another run stretching a 71-67 lead into 9-point advantage in a little over 2-1/2 minutes.

The clincher came with the Vandals running time off the clock. Mitchell ran the shot clock down and fired a 3-pointer that didn't draw iron with 47 second left. With about 1 second remaining on the shot clock, Summers grabbed the offensive rebound and sank a jump shot to make it 77-68 Vandals with 42 seconds remaining.

Divilbiss, commenting on the Vandals' holding the Mustangs to 32% shooting from the floor (0-6 from 3-point range), said, "I just thought the girls did a great job executing and staying within the framework of what we do. I thought that we did a really good job of getting control of the tempo of the game. It took us a long time, but in that second half I thought we got control of the tempo of the game with our motion that we were running and set really good screens.

"Heather set a great screen one time and Karly got a basket off of it, but making them defend for stretches of time I thought really helped slow their break down, and then we went back to secondary break and got some really good flow things," he said. "Emily made some great reads. There was a really good flow to things once we got control of the tempo of the game. (Cal Poly) did a great job, I thought, in the first half of pushing the tempo and making us play us play a little bit at their pace. It's like we've talked about: One of things that we feel is really important is that we can play the game in the 50s or we can play it in the 80s. As long as we make people play against five set defenders, we don't care what the score is or what the pace of the game is so to speak or how many possessions there are in a game because we feel like we're balanced enough as a basketball team to be able to play either way. " Thoelke added, "I think we switched up on them a lot. We changed defenses and that threw them off. I think we did a good job of packing it in and slowing down their tempo which helped out."

Summers played a tremendous second half for the Vandals coming up with 9 rebounds and 13 points in the final half. Asked about halftime adjustments, the freshman from Blaine, Washington said, "Well, I just got told that I needed to pick it up, and I knew I did anyway because I get frustrated when I do not do what I'm supposed to do; so just to be good to our team and help out as much as I could I just stepped it up."

Faurholt elaborated. "Jessica did exactly what we asked her to do. We went in at halftime and said, 'Hey Jessica. We really need you to do these things,' and she just went out there and did exactly what we asked. When Jessica gets her hands on the ball there aren't many people who can take it from her. I think (Cal Poly's Jessica) Eggleston is probably one of the best rebounders that I've ever played against and Jessica took it from her a couple times. That presence is so awesome to have, and it's just really nice to have when you play with somebody who can grab that rebound. That's big. That's big for our team, because rebounding is definitely not our biggest strength."

Explaining the key play, Summers said, "She (Leilani) shot it and nobody boxed me out; so I just ran, and when she (missed) it nobody was beside me; so I shot it and it went's just one of those plays...I kept us going, kept up excited and in the game. I don't really think about plays before I do them, like 'Oh, I hope this goes in.' I just go with it."

Summers is averaging 5 points and 7 rebounds on the season, and in conference play she's averaging 5 points and 8 rebounds as she continues to gains experience playing in the Vandal system against Division I talent. "It took me a while in the beginning to remember plays, to remember to box out, or just play hard," she said, "but now that I'm starting to get the plays down and know how people want me to play it's a lot easier for me to just go out there and just play basketball."

Divilbiss, besides being pleased with the scoring balance, felt everyone seeing action contributed to the victory. "They made their contributions," he said. "Everybody contributed their gifts that they bring to the team. Karly did well defensively and made a good basket off the shuffle cut for us on an inside play. She's good at doing that. Sax hit a 3 for us. Those kids contributed too even though they didn't score. Karly is kind of becoming the defender for us on the perimeter, and then the other four - when they have this kind of balance and this kind of scoring we're very, very difficult to defend. You can't leave anybody open any more. Emily gets lots of 1-on-1 situations and …you can't guard her with one defender. I haven't seen anybody guard her with one defender successfully."

Heather Thoelke sank 6 of 11 field goal attempts including 3 of 5 from 3-point range. After the game she asked about the outstanding performance. "It's kind of funny," she said, "because towards the beginning of the game I got poked in the eye really bad on a steal and I almost didn't shoot it because my eyes were watering so badly, but I thought, 'Aw, I might as well.' Nobody was guarding me. The whole first half I couldn't see out of my right eye." "I'm really proud of her," Divilbiss said. "I thought Heather really stepped up and played with a lot of confidence tonight. When she's doing that for us we just go to another level. She's been working so hard at being more aggressive. I think she's just been outstanding for us for most of the season. It's just being aggressive, looking to score, and taking on. I think it's really carried over on the defensive side of the ball, too. I think she's been very, very aggressive. Her overall play has been more aggressive."

The Vandals, now 14-6 and 9-2, ended a four-game home stand and will travel to face UOP Thursday in Stockton and travel to Cal State Northridge Saturday. The Vandals had played 7 of 9 games on the road before the two weeks at home. "It came at a perfect time allowing them to recuperate from the extensive travel. Now I'm ready to go on the road again," said Thoelke, the only Vandal senior. "We got home after our last trip and we were just exhausted, but having these two weeks I think helped us a ton."

In other BWC action Saturday UC Santa Barbara, down 38-34 at the half, rebounded to defeat Utah State 67-59 in Logan to go to 9-2. The Aggies dropped to 6-5. Long Beach remained one game back in the standings at 8-3 beating Pacific (2-9) 74-48. Northridge improved to 7-4 with a 68-58 win over UC Irvine (2-9) and UC Riverside defeated UC Davis 64-57 in nonconference action. Cal Poly is now 3-8.

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