Women beat Gonzaga, lose 2 in North Carolina

The Vandal women (2-4) thumped Gonzaga on Wednesday, then lost two consecutive games in North Carolina at the Lady Pirate Invitational this weekend, falling to Drexel on Saturday then to Southern University in double overtime on Sunday afternoon. Led by Preseason All American candidate Emily Faurholt, the team stays on the road this week traveling to Utah Valley State on Thursday and Idaho State on Saturday.

MOSCOW – Visiting Gonzaga held a 56-54 lead over the Lady Vandals with under 5 minutes remaining in the Cowan Spectrum Wednesday night. Vandal senior Emily Faurholt, one of the top scorers in the nation each of the last two seasons, got the ball in the paint but found herself triple teamed by the taller Bulldogs. With no opening and the shot clock winding down, sophomore Emily Halliday flashed down the baseline towards the basket. A Faurholt wraparound pass hit her in stride leading to a game-tying layup, then 64 second later a Leilani Mitchell free throw put the Vandals ahead 57-56. A 12-6 scoring edge over the remaining 3:51 enabled the Vandals to defeat the Bulldogs 69-62 before 1,850 spectators, the 10th largest crowd for a Lady Vandals basketball game in history.

Faurholt had 30 points and Mitchell had 20 to lead the scoring for the Vandals, but Faurholt had a lot of praise for Halliday and the rest of her teammates in the win which helped ease the sting somewhat of Gonzaga's 70-53 win in Spokane.

"I got (Halliday) the ball in that situation and she was aggressive and she believed in it," Faurholt said. "She went up strong and she…finished it. Those are things that our team is doing this year. We're finishing shots. Everyone is being a major contributor to the game, being aggressive and knowing their role. (Halliday) needed to take that shot."

Vandal coach Mike Divilbiss was very pleased with the Vandal performance. "They're the best team we've played so far this year. There's no question about it," he said. "I think that when we played last year we were still trying to find ourselves a little bit and they had a lot of veterans, and I think the roles are just a smidge reversed although we've got 3 new kids in our program, too, that are playing. 3 of our top 7 kids are new – Halliday is really new because she's been out for a year. I just think this is going to happen when you play each other so much and you play early in the year. Where we were in February last year was way different from where we were in December, and I'm sure they're going to be much different in February than they are right now.

"We were a lot more balanced," he added. "Even though Leilani and Emily put up 20 and 30 we still had some other kids making plays and contributing, being aggressive, playing their roles. Karly (Felton) was outstanding playing her role. She's a tremendous perimeter defender and she's a good motion maker. She can get … stuff around the basket and do that really well. That's the kind of stuff she did for us tonight. Halliday makes open shots and has a little bit of an offensive presence and a real understanding of the defense. The kids played their roles very well tonight. I was very pleased with that. We hadn't been doing that.

"We lost Heather (Thoelke to graduation), and the kids are trying to find who's going to step up and be that third scorer for us. Everyone was trying too hard. They were trying to be that third person for their team. When people get out of their roles it's really easy to try things you're not good at doing and stress a little bit. I think you have to stay within your role."

The Vandals won the game at the free-throw line making 21 of 29 (73%) compared to 12 of 17 for Gonzaga. They drew 24 fouls from the taller Bulldogs while committing only 18 personals.

Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said the Vandals did a good job physically against his taller Bulldogs in the paint. "They are really physical," he said. "They do a good job… and we're just not as strong and physical as we want to be inside. Our kids shy away from it. Give them credit. It's a style that definitely worked tonight."

Vandals at Lady Pirate Invitational

The Vandals spent the weekend in Greenville, NC competing in the Lady Pirate Invitational at East Carolina University. The Vandals fell 66-44 Saturday afternoon to the Drexel University Dragons as the Philadelphia squad sank 11 of 18 3-pointers and limited Mitchell and Faurholt to 13 and 11 points respectively.

"Drexel is a good team and they executed their offense very well," Divilbiss said. "They are a very good shooting team who got hot in this game and put us away." Defensively Divilbiss said the Dragons "…worked hard to keep the ball away from Emily and Leilani and until other players step up and make some plays we are going to continue to struggle. It is my responsibility to have our team prepared for anything the other team throws at them and I need to do a better job at having this team organized and ready."

The loss put the Vandals into the consolation championship game Sunday afternoon against Southern University, and despite playing their third game in 5 days the Vandals took the Panthers into double overtime before finally dropping a 76-74 decision as a Faurholt basket at the buzzer was waved off.

"This was a very good battle that could have gone either way and I am very pleased with our players after this game," Divilbiss said after the contest. "They competed hard, they had good energy, and we had several players step up and contribute. Southern is a very talented team that is very quick and this was a high-level basketball game….This game will make our team stronger. We need to play a little smarter at times, but we'll overcome and be a better basketball team from games like this. I am disappointed for the players more than anything, but they will respond in the right way," Divilbiss said.

Divilbiss has constructed the Vandals' 2005-06 schedule to get his players used to playing top-level competition as well as getting used to playing on the road. At the end of the regular season in the tough WAC the Vandals will play 6 games in the last 15 days of the regular season (including a trip to Hawaii).

So far this season the Vandals have traveled to face Oklahoma State of the Big 12, Marist (which lost hard-fought games to Connecticut, New Hampshire, Villanova and New Mexico before facing Idaho), and Drexel of the tough Colonial Athletic Association, a pre-season Women's NIT selection. The Dragons beat Lehigh and lost to Boston College and Temple prior to their win over the Vandals."

"We may have bitten off more than we could chew with this schedule, but it will make us a better basketball team in February and March," Divilbiss said.

The Vandals will be on the road twice this week traveling to Utah Valley State for a Thursday evening game and then to Pocatello for a Saturday afternoon game against Idaho State.

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